Nazarbayev Shuns 'Latin American' Example

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in an interview Friday that he had no intention of following an example set by some Latin American states and nationalizing his country's booming energy sector.

Lying on some of the world's biggest oil reserves, Kazakhstan has sought to build up its presence in the energy sector, alarming foreign investors and sparking talk among Kazakhstan-watchers about resource nationalism.

Nazarbayev said he had no desire to turn to tactics used by some nations in Latin America such as Venezuela to squeeze foreign companies any further.

"First of all, Kazakhstan has no desire to nationalize any assets like in Latin America," he said. "Kazakhstan does not want to nationalize or take anything away from anyone."

Fresh from a bitter dispute with Western oil majors over the huge Kashagan oil field, Kazakhstan has long threatened to use tough measures if any foreign investor broke legislation or contractual obligations.

Following months of tough negotiations, Kazakhstan's government stripped Italy's Eni of its leading role in Kashagan, the world's top oil find in three decades, and doubled its own stake.

But Nazarbayev sought to reassure investors, calling the Kashagan dispute unique because of specific issues around the project's management.

Nazarbayev also ruled out state support for the country's beleaguered banking sector, saying it was already recovering from problems linked to the global credit crunch.

He said the credit squeeze was "a blessing" because it offered an opportunity to modernize the sector and set new rules.