Venezuela has proven natural gas reserves of 200 quintillion cubic feet, placing them among the largest in the world, President Hugo Chavez said.

"We have proven that we have some of the most important gas reserves on the planet, and we are at 200 quintillion cubic feet and we will continue discovering more," Chavez said in an address carried on national radio and television.

Previous administrations "said there was no gas here," the president said during the inauguration Monday of a factory in the central state of Carabobo.

A January 2010 U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, study estimated that there could be 130 quintillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Orinoco Belt, Chavez said.

The Orinoco Belt, located in southeastern Venezuela, holds some of the largest proven petroleum reserves in the world.

"Nobody knows how much gas the belt holds," but confirmation of the USGS numbers "would put us among the top ones, in second or third place in the world in terms of natural gas reserves, as well as having the world's largest petroleum reserves," estimated at around 300 billion barrels of crude, the president said.

The USGS study estimated that the Orinoco Belt could hold 513 billion barrels of extractable crude.

Venezuela's vast natural-resource wealth, including huge reserves of water and minerals, make the global powers "covet" the South American country, Chavez said.

"They have the desire to own Venezuela once again so they can take its great wealth, take it from us. We share it with the world, but, first, it's ours, and the benefits of this wealth must be distributed with equality and justice. That is, it should go to those who need it the most," the president said.

The Mariscal Sucre liquefied natural gas project in eastern Venezuela is set to start production ahead of schedule in December of 300 million cubic feet of gas, Chavez said. EFE