updated 6/2/2006 12:38:06 AM ET 2006-06-02T04:38:06

President Hugo Chavez brought up Carlos the Jackal during a meeting of oil producers Thursday, calling the Venezuela-born terrorist who once took hostages at an OPEC meeting “a good friend.”

Carlos, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, gained notoriety during the Cold War for staging a string of bombings and assassinations. He is serving a life sentence for murder in France.

Chavez recalled in his speech how Ramirez once in a letter referred to the Venezuelan leader’s 1999 tour of OPEC member states.

He said Carlos, “a good friend,” said in the missive from his prison that the tour appeared “hair-raising.”

“I will never forget that phrase from Carlos,” Chavez said.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries met in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Thursday and decided to keep crude output steady.

Chavez provoked controversy in 1999 when he confirmed he had written a letter to Ramirez. He addressed Ramirez as “Dear compatriot” and, according to press reports, signed it “with profound faith in the cause and the mission, now and forever.”

Chavez, who describes himself as a socialist revolutionary, has said the letter was intended to express “human solidarity” with Ramirez but not “political solidarity.”

Ramirez has testified that he led a 1975 attack that killed three people at the OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Among the 70 hostages seized in the attack was Venezuela’s then-oil minister, Valentin Hernandez Acosta. The hostages were freed in Algeria.

He was captured in 1994 and later convicted in the in the 1975 murders of two French investigators and a Lebanese man.

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