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Prime Minister Taro Aso and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez agreed Monday in Tokyo to boost bilateral cooperation on energy, Foreign Ministry officials said.

They agreed to set up a working team to explore the possibility of developing oil in Venezuela’s Orinoco oil belt, as well as liquefied natural gas.

The team will also consider funding for the operations, the officials said.

Aso expressed hope that the Venezuelan president would make efforts to help Japanese firms work smoothly in Venezuela, which possesses some of the world’s largest reserves of oil and natural gas, they said.

Aso also proposed that Venezuela hold dialogue between the public and private sectors to improve the business environment between the two nations, and Chavez concurred and said he will make efforts to resolve any problems Japanese firms may face in his country, according to the officials.

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