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Argentine support for Kirchner on YPF takeover

Six in 10 Argentines support a decision by President Christina Kirchner to wrest control of the country’s biggest oil company YPF from Spain, according to a poll released on Sunday.

The poll by Argentina’s Poliarquia polling institute appeared in the La Nacion daily, showing 62 percent of Argentines in agreement with a move by Kirchner to take control of 51 percent of the shares of YPF, a decision that inflamed relations between her country and Spain and sparked intense international condemnation.

Buenos Aires on Monday took control of Spanish oil company Repsol’s subsidiary YPF, whose acronym stands for Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales. Later in the week it extended the move to YPF Gas, a separate company 85 percent owned by a division of Spain’s Repsol.

The government claimed among other complaints that the Spanish firm had failed to sufficiently invest in the country and that Argentina was being forced to import more of its energy supplies.

The telephone poll of 1,115 survey adults in some 40 Argentine cities found 26 percent of respondents strongly in favor of the expropriation, while another 36 percent supported it, although less strongly.

By contrast, 23 percent expressed disagreement with the move while, just eight percent said they were strongly opposed.

Since the controversial move, Buenos Aires has asked Brazil’s state-owned Petrobras energy concern to step up its role in running YPF.

Top officials here have planned meetings with various other international oil companies as Argentina seeks possible investment partners in the enterprise.

Spain’s Repsol purchased YPF in 1999 for $15 billion in what was the biggest operation of the privatization program of Argentina’s then-president Carlos Menem.

Since the move, YPF shares, which have tumbled some 70 percent since January fell further and had even steeper before rebounding slightly in New York later in the week.

The European Parliament has condemned the action and urged the European Union to consider retaliatory measures.