Chavez in Tehran ''Empire of dollar is crashing''

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TEHRAN, Nov 19 (Reuters) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez today said the ''empire of the dollar is crashing'', a day after his country and anti-US ally Iran advocated action over the weakening US currency during an OPEC summit in Riyadh.

Chavez, who on Saturday said oil prices could double to 200 per barrel if the United States attacks Iran over its disputed atomic ambitions, spoke to reporters after talks with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

''Soon we will not talk about dollars because the dollar is falling in value and the empire of the dollar is crashing,'' Chavez said in comments translated into Farsi from Spanish.

''Naturally, by the crash of the dollar, America's empire will crash,'' Chavez said at a joint news conference with Ahmadinejad. The two presidents share the same viewpoint in denouncing US influence in the world.

The final statement of the oil cartel's November 17-18 summit in Riyadh did not include any reference to the falling dollar, in an apparent victory for US-allied moderates led by Saudi Arabia.

But Iran and Venezuela made clear before and after the summit that they would press for action, which could include pricing oil in a basket of currencies, with Ahmadinejad yesterday calling the dollar a ''worthless piece of paper.'' A fall in the value of the US dollar on global markets helped fuel oil's rally to a record 98.62 dollars on November 7 -- causing the West to call for more OPEC supplies to cool prices -- but it has also eroded the purchasing power of OPEC members.

Fears the United States or its ally Israel could attack Iran -- over a nuclear energy programme Washington says is a cover for seeking atomic weapons -- have also contributed to higher crude prices. Tehran denies the charge.

REUTERS SYU RN2005

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