New Costa Rican President Oscar Arias discussed development financing and oil deals with Venezuela on Friday, opening another front on which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez might seek to extend his reach . . .

The two nations also are finalizing a deal to allow Costa Rica to buy oil more cheaply from Venezuela than it now does and studying the possibility of Costa Rica receiving a credit line for development projects.

Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, has signed scores of energy agreements with Latin American neighbors as part of President Chavez's efforts to provide oil on preferential terms to counter what he calls U.S. imperialism. Washington says the left-wing leader is a destabilizing force in the region.

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