Saudi eyes support on supply hike, blasts Europe over taxes
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi told AFP Saturday that other OPEC members support a proposal for boosting oil production by more than 500,000 barrels day at a crucial weekend meeting in Vienna.
He also renewed OPEC's attack on European politicians lobbying the cartel, saying that taxes on oil-products are the main part of high prices for the end-consumer.
The minister, the 11-member cartel's heavyweight, said he was sure OPEC will agree a "reasonable" increase at a crucial meeting on Sunday, saying the market wanted more than 500,000 barrels extra per day.
"The answer is yes," he told AFP in an interview when asked whether he had received support from other OPEC delegations in Vienna for the meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
He declined to say which other OPEC countries supported a hike of over 500,000, and when asked whether did, replied: "Does the the market want more than 500,000? The answer is yes."
The OPEC member states appear set to agree on an increase Sunday, but the question is by how much.
The cartel agreed a price-band mechanism in March under which it would add 500,000 barrels if prices remained out of a range of 22-28 dollars for more than 20 days.
The Saudi minister expressed confidence that OPEC will reach an agreement on an increase, although declined to comment suggestions that the Sunday meeting could extend into Monday to hammer out differences.
"I think eventually OPEC will come to an agreement as usual on a reasonable increase. We have done it twice, and there is no reason not to do it for a third time.
"Everybody recognises that there is a need for an increase. It's just a question of how much," he added.
The minister, whose country is the only OPEC member with substantial extra capacity, also sought to play down fears by other smaller OPEC members that a big increase in production could only benefit Saudi Arabia, and not them.
"OPEC is looking after the interests of all its members, not some," he said. "If there is an agreement to increase by X amount, everybody will get their share. Whether it can be produced or not is something else."
"The idea that some have and don't have will not prevent OPEC from making the right decision," he said.
Meanwhile al-Nuaimi also reiterated criticism of Western nations who levy huge taxes on oil products, but blame OPEC when consumers protest about high fuel prices.
"The pressure putting all the blame on OPEC is misguided and wrong," he said, recalling that the cartel has already raised production twice this year in a bid to ease prices.
"Instead of putting pressure on OPEC which is already taking action on its own to moderate prices, different European govermments should re-examine the tax strucutre onf fuels in their coutnries.
"If there is really concern and compassion for the consumer, that's where the examination should take place."
The attack on taxes would be included in a statement to be released after this weekend's meeting.
"We will come out with a communique in which we will state again that the biggest burden .. on the consumer is not
the price of crude oil, it is the tax thats imposed by consuming governments," he said.
But he insisted that OPEC did not mind the outside pressure.
"OPEC performs much better under pressure. OPEC will do what it believes is correct to protect its own interests, and will be mindful of the interests of the consumer."—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)