NEW DELHI, March 5: Venezuela President Hugo Chavez renewed charges Saturday that Washington was trying to kill him as he sought to distance his oil-rich nation from US markets by signing a major oil deal with fuel-hungry India

"There is in the US ... a plan to assassinate me," Chavez said in New Delhi where he signed an agreement under which India will take a 49 percent stake in a Venezuelan oil field.

"If anything happens to me, the responsibility will be with the president of the United States (George Bush)," Chavez, on the second day of a four-day visit to India, told a news conference.

The leftist-populist Chavez has warned that any bid to kill him would result in the halting of Venezuela's oil shipments to the United States, which imports 15 percent of its crude needs from the Latin American nation.

The 50-year-old ex-paratrooper, whose country is the lone South American member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, also said the world should get used to high oil prices.

"The world should forget about cheap oil ... it won't happen," he said, adding that oil would remain between 40 dollars and 50 dollars a barrel.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April closed at a four-month high of 53.78 dollars a barrel Friday.

Oil prices have been rising amid concern the global economy will need more oil to keep up with economic growth and that OPEC may be keeping supplies tight.

India's own economic growth has seen its demand for imported crude skyrocket, and the South Asian giant has been scouring the globe to meet its ever-expanding fuel needs.

Saturday's deal gives India's state-controlled giant Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) a 49 percent stake in Venezuela's San Cristobal oil field, and is meant to supplement stakes in fuel projects in Russia, Libya and Sudan, among other countries.

"To receive 49 percent plus the operatorship is ... a huge advance, and with that I'm now truly well positioned to commercialize exploratory work" going on in various Latin American countries, India's Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said.-AFP

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