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UPDATE 1-Venezuela gives cement companies 60 days for deal

(Adds more details from gazette on negotiation terms)

CARACAS, June 19 (Reuters) - Venezuela has given the country’s largest foreign cement companies 60 days to strike a deal on the nationalization of their assets or face expropriation, according to an official gazette published on Thursday.

President Hugo Chavez said several months ago he would take over the Venezuelan units of Mexico's Cemex CX.NCMXCPO.MX,Switzerland's Holcim Ltd HOLN.VX and France's Lafarge SALAFP.PA -- some of the world's biggest cement producers.

The order in the the gazette said the state would take at least a 60 percent stake in the takeovers, adding the companies could negotiate over continuing as minority partners in their units and over compensation for the loss of their assets.

Once negotiations are over with the companies that dominate Venezuela’s cement industry, the state will complete the transfer of ownership and operations by the end of the year, the gazette said.

Chavez, a socialist ally of Cuba who often complains foreign companies plunder his OPEC nation’s resources, has nationalized swathes of the economy over the last two years.

Most economists say he generally uses an oil-price bonanza to pay fair compensation to the ousted companies, but his strategy has scared off new foreign investment.

He is also in the process of nationalizing the country's largest steelmaker, owned by Argentina's Ternium SA TX.N. (Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Writing by Saul Hudson, Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Andre Grenon)

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