Venezuelan oil minister waves off OPEC meeting: official

Venezuela's Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez has decided not to attend an OPEC meeting in Vienna Wednesday, an official said, saying upcoming elections and other matters were keeping him at home.

The official denied that Ramirez's decision was related to the health of President Hugo Chavez, who is in Cuba for surgery after disclosing that his cancer has returned.

"He is not going," an official with the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, which Ramirez heads, told AFP. "He is busy with other matters in Caracas and besides there are regional elections on Sunday."

OPEC oil ministers were meeting Wednesday in Vienna to decide on the cartel's oil production ceiling.

Venezuela will be represented at the meeting by its OPEC governor, Bernard Mommer, the official said.

A founding member of OPEC, Venezuela sits atop the world's largest proven oil reserves and produces about three million barrels a day, according to the government, or 2.3 million barrels a day, by OPEC's count.

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