Chavez arrives in Emirates on OPEC tour
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Abu Dhabi Wednesday on the fourth stop of a tour of all OPEC member states, the official WAM news agency reported. During his brief stopover in the United Arab Emirates, Chavez will hold talks with Crown Prince Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, WAM said. UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan is currently in the United States undergoing medical tests.
Chavez has already visited Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, and is due to travel to Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria and Algeria, before returning to Caracas on August 15.
The key objective of the 10-nation tour is for Chavez, whose country holds the revolving presidency of OPEC, to personally invite all the cartel's members to attend a summit in Caracas in September.
It will be OPEC's second since the organisation was set up in Baghdad in September 1960. A first summit of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was held in Algiers in 1975.
The Venezuelan president will become Thursday the first head of state to visit Baghdad since the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait, a distinction that has drawn fire from Washington. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher again criticized the trip Tuesday, after an earlier attack was rebuffed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel. "We don't think it's wise or appropriate for him to visit, and, therefore, we'll look to see what he does," Boucher said. "It's just not the right thing to show up in Baghdad, particularly as a democratic leader visiting a dictator," Boucher added in reference to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "We think that's particularly inappropriate."
Earlier Tuesday, Rangel said there was no way Chavez would change his plans. "It is absurd that people as pragmatic in politics as the Americans could believe that Venezuela, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, could determine who is democratically included within the cartel and who isn't. "If we set ourselves to doing that, it would definitely end up putting an end to OPEC," he said.
The Iraq stop is "a done deal ... the trip was arranged this way and no one will change this decision," Rangel said.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)