Oil Report

Bolivia's Morales in Libya for energy cooperation

TRIPOLI, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales praised Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s philosophy of Islamic socialism on Saturday, the start of a two-day visit which is expected to focus on increased energy cooperation.

Morales plans to seek Libyan investment in Bolivia’s hydrocarbons industry which, despite having substantial energy reserves, is struggling to meet a commitment to pump natural gas to Argentina and Brazil, a Bolivian government source said.

Morales was also due to visit Iran as part of a foreign tour which takes place amid political tension in Bolivia and anti-government protests in opposition-controlled regions.

Bolivia, which has strong ties with the government of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, is one of several South American countries that have improved relations with Tehran, causing some concern in Washington.

The United States has led international efforts to isolate Iran, which it accuses of seeking atomic weapons under the cover of a nuclear energy programme.

Bolivia agreed this month to establish diplomatic ties with Libya, which has emerged from isolation in recent years after it abandoned banned weapons programmes and accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing.

Morales, who had visited Libya as a trade union leader, said he never dreamed he might visit the north African country again as the country’s president, Libyan state news agency Jana reported.

He praised Gaddafi’s political philosophy laid out in his Green Book, which rejects the idea of political parties and steers a middle-road between capitalism and communism.

“I read the Green Book, studied it and am enthusiastic about the thinking spelled out in the Green Book,” Jana cited him as saying.

“This visit will strengthen relations between the two countries,” Morales added.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a brief visit to Bolivia last September and committed to investing in the country.

This March, Iran and Venezuela agreed to build two cement factories in the Bolivian highlands for a joint investment worth $230 million, official sources said at the time. (Additional reporting by Carlos Alberto Quiroga and Fiona Ortiz; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer, editing by Mary Gabriel)