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Venezuela lawyer says $1.4 billion Exxon damages award overturned

FILE PHOTO - The logo of Exxon Mobil Corporation is shown on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, New York, U.S. December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) - A World Bank tribunal order for Venezuela to pay $1.4 billion in damages to Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) over nationalizations has been annulled, a lawyer for the government said on Thursday.

"We were confident all along that our position was correct and are very pleased that the annulment committee agreed," Venezuela's lawyer George Kahale told Reuters by email.

There was no immediate confirmation by the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) that is handling the case, one of many arising from nationalizations during Hugo Chavez's 1999-2013 rule of the South American OPEC nation.

A spokesman for the U.S.-based oil company, Todd Spitler, did not confirm details but said: "ExxonMobil will continue to evaluate its legal rights and determine next steps."

An annulment of the Exxon award would be welcome news to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's cash-strapped government as it faces a heavy foreign debt repayment schedule amid a deep domestic recession that has led to widespread shortages.

Venezuela had challenged the 2014 award with various arguments, including that a previous decision from Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce to award Exxon $908 million should be deducted from the ICSID award.

Chavez, the firebrand socialist leader whose rule was cut short by death from cancer, nationalized a range of oil ventures, including the Cerro Negro heavy crude project and a smaller project called La Ceiba, both operated by Exxon.

(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Gregorio)