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OPEC Secretary General Steps Down, Accepts Venezuelan Oil Position

Ali Rodriguez has quit his job as secretary general of OPEC and will become the president of Venezuela's state-owned oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela, Oil Minister Alvaro Silva said late Friday.

Rodriguez, a former Venezuelan oil minister who became Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries secretary general in 2001, was under heavy pressure from President Hugo Chavez to head the oil company. It wasn't immediately known who would replace Rodriguez at OPEC.

A new company board of directors was being appointed, but a government spokeswoman said she couldn't provide the names.

Rodriguez had spent the week in Caracas mulling Chavez's invitation.

Venezuela is the third-largest supplier of oil to the United States and a leading member of OPEC. Petroleos de Venezuela was at the center of a dispute that sparked last week's failed coup against Chavez.

Rodriguez has shared Chavez's interest in trying to keep oil prices high by sharply limiting crude production by the group's 11 member countries.

Chavez tried to assert control over PDVSA by appointing supporters to key positions in the company in February. Many managers perceived the moves as political interference.

The dispute boiled over this month when dissident executives and oil workers began a work slowdown that almost choked production and exports. Venezuela's largest business and labor groups called a general strike to support them, and a storm of opposition swept Chavez from office April 12. The coup collapsed, and Chavez was back in office by Sunday.