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Venezuelan oil firm returns island in Delaware River to U.S.


MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - The Venezuelan government has formally handed back a small uninhabited island in the Delaware River, which had been used by a state company to store fuel, to the United States.

Petty Island in the state of New Jersey, near Philadelphia, covers 214 hectares (292 acres), and was bought by Venezuela's state-owned CITGO Petroleum Corporation in 1990. The fuel storage facilities have not been used for eight years.

CITGO, a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), has donated the island to the State of New Jersey for the creation of a nature reserve, the Venezuelan government said in a statement.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged to return the island to the U.S. during a discussion with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago last Sunday.

Alejandro Granado, the head of CITGO, told reporters: "The donation demonstrates the commitment of the people of Venezuela led by President Hugo Chavez to conserving the environment and the general welfare of the peoples."

Negotiations on returning the island to the United States had been ongoing since 2004.

Environmental groups have resisted plans to build hotels and a golf course on the island, which is home to a pair of American bald eagles as well as several great blue herons and state-endangered black-crowned night herons.

New Jersey's administration has said the Venezuelan company will have to clean up the island before it can be turned into a nature reserve.

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