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Venezuela teams up with Cuba for construction of nickel-iron foundry

CARACAS, Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that his government has approved funding to build an iron and nickel foundry with Cuba.

Cuba is among the world's largest producers of nickel, which is used to make stainless steel. Venezuela and Cuba signed an agreement last year to produce stainless steel using Cuban nickel — a project slated to involve some US$1.1 billion (€690 million) in joint investment.

"We have large iron reserves, Cuba has large nickel reserves," Chavez said in a televised address, adding that Venezuela has not made the necessary alliances to process the metals domestically.

Chavez did not say Thursday how much money it would take to build the foundry or where it would be located.

Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has developed close ties with communist-led Cuba through a series of cooperative agreements involving education, health and energy.

Among other agreements, Venezuela ships roughly 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba under preferential terms, while Cuban President Raul Castro has sent thousands of doctors to treat the poor in the South American nation.

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