Saudi Hopes For 'Easy' OPEC Accord, But Wary of Dictating
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Nuaimi said Saturday he hoped for an "easy" agreement on raising crude production at this meeting of OPEC oil ministers, under intense pressure to help ease soaring prices.
But the Saudi minister, whose country is the heavyweight of the 11-member cartel, said he did not want to dictate to reluctant other members.
"It's going to be easy to reach an agreement," he told a small group of reporters ahead of the meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Al-Nuaimi sought to play down differences between Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, and the other OPEC states.
"We don't want to dictate. We want cohesion," he told the reporters, including AFP, accompanying him on an early morning jog in Vienna.
The Sunday meeting is under intense pressure to agree to a significant increase in production to help ease oil prices, which soared to 10-year highs of over 35 dollars this week.
Saudi Arabia, the only OPEC member with any substantial spare capacity, is reportedly ready to increase production by 700,000 barrels a day. Others, who cannot produce any more, are more reluctant.
Al-Nuaimi again declined to comment on specific figures for an increase. He said he had numbers in mind, but insisted: "I will go to the meeting with an open mind."
Analysts and delegates have stressed the difficulty facing OPEC members on Sunday, caught between intense international pressure and their own interest in keeping prices high to maintain revenues.
Some have even suggested that the meeting will have to continue into Monday and perhaps beyond to hammer out an agreement.
The Saudi minister insisted it would be relatively easy.
"It's going to be easier to reach an agreement on production than for the election of a new secretary general," he said, referring to finding a replacement for current secretary general, Nigerian Rilwanu Lukman.
Lukman was due to step down last year, but remained in his post as OPEC members could not agree on the politically-divisive appointment at a time when they were struggling to convince oil markets of their unity.
Al-Nuaimi also reiterated that Saudi would do its part to help bring oil prices down. "We will do our part to moderate prices," he said.
And he took a fresh dig at Western governments who blame OPEC for sky-high oil prices, while refusing to cut taxes, which amount to more than 70 percent of the cost of oil products to end-consumers, notably in Europe.
He advised consumers to log onto OPEC's Internet web site, which includes a comparison of the price of a barrel of oil, a barrel of Coca-Cola and a barrel of Perrier water.
Crude is by far the cheapest liquid. But an accompanying table showing taxes levied by governments highlights the huge difference between the crude price and the end-product price -- VIENNA(AFP)
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