Chavez sees oil at 100 dollars a barrel if US hits Iran
LONDON, May 14 (Reuters) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez today said that if the United States attacked Iran in its dispute with Tehran over nuclear technology, the price of oil could soar to triple figures.
Visiting London following an EU-Latin American summit in Vienna at the weekend, Chavez, leader of the world's fifth largest oil exporter, said the Iranians would have no choice but to respond to a US assault by cutting oil production.
''If the United States attacks Iran ... oil could reach 100 dollars a barrel or more,'' Chavez told a meeting hosted by London's left-wing mayor Ken Livingstone. ''The English middle classes would have to stop using their cars.'' ''If they attack Iran, the Iranians will cut off their supply of oil. We would do the same if we were attacked. We would cut off our oil,'' Chavez told around 1,000 British leftists and trade unionists. ''Moreover, Iran has said it would attack Israel, and I know they have the wherewithal to do so.'' The United States and European Union is putting pressure on Iran to halt uranium enrichment, which Tehran says it wants for peaceful nuclear power. The White House has refused to rule out military action although it is pursuing a diplomatic settlement.
The oil price has rocketed in recent years to around 70 dollars a barrel, pouring billions of dollars into Venezuela's economy and fuelling Chavez's self-styled socialist Bolivarian revolution.
''If they attack Iran I think it will be far worse than the situation is in Iraq,'' Chavez said, describing the Iraq as ''the Vietnam of the 21st century''.
Chavez was welcomed to London by Livingstone, who opened the meeting by accusing US President George W Bush of running ''a gangster regime''.
''We salute you Mr President,'' Livingstone told Chavez.
''Londoners stand with you, not with the oil companies and the oligarchs.'' Chavez is in London for two days to meet various figures from the British left. He will not meet Prime Minister Tony Blair, who he criticised for his close alliance with Washington.
The ex-soldier was greeted by jubilant supporters as he took the platform in a stuccoed ballroom. Hundreds more gathered outside in a futile bid to hear him speak. The atmosphere inside was more like a rock concert than a political meeting.
Young Chavez supporters, clad in Venezuela's red, blue and yellow colours, banged drums, waved placards and chanted the president's name until he took the stage -- nearly two hours later than scheduled.
In a speech broadcast in Venezuela as Chavez's regular ''Alo Presidente'' programme, Chavez extolled the virtues of Fidel Castro's Cuban government.
Chavez, Castro and Bolivian President Evo Morales are at the vanguard of Latin America's recent shift to the political left.