Venezuela's energy minister said state oil company PDVSA was still looking to participate in the Abreu e Lima refinery, a joint project with Brazil's Petrobras.

"We want to stay there," Rafael Ramirez, who is also president of PDVSA, told reporters, referring to the refinery being built in northeastern Brazil.

Last week, the Brazilian state-controlled company said it was willing to maintain its partnership with PDVSA as long as the Venezuelan company contributes its 40 percent share of the project's more than $17 billion price tag.

Although an agreement to build the refinery was signed in 2005 by the then-presidents of Brazil and Venezuela, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Hugo Chavez, and the plant is in the final construction phase, PDVSA has never provided funds for the project nor met the loan guarantee demands of Brazil's BNDES state development bank.

Under the initial agreement, Petrobras and PDVSA were to have built the 230,000-barrel-per-day refinery in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco as a 60-40 bi-national venture.

The project was a long-standing wish of the late Chavez, who was the main proponent of the project and traveled several times to Brazil to work out the details of the partnership.

Petrobras began building the refinery on its own in 2007 while waiting for PDVSA to contribute its share and assume its portion of the debt the Brazilian company had contracted to finance the project. EFE