Venezuela's President Launches Tour of OPEC Nations
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez left Sunday for Saudi Arabia, his first stop on a 10-country tour of OPEC member nations to invite his counterpart heads of state to the oil cartel's second summit ever, on September 27-30 in Caracas.
His nine-day trip, ending August 15th, will take him to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria and Algeria.
In Iraq and Libya he is expected to meet, respectively, with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Muammar Khadafi.
Traveling with Chavez was Venezuelan Energy Minister Ali Rodriguez, who as the current acting chairman of OPEC has been the lead organizer behind the upcoming summit.
Energy ministers from some non-OPEC nations, including Mexico, Norway, Oman and Russia, have been invited to attend the summit. Venezuela is the sole Latin American member of OPEC.
The first summit of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was held in Algeria in 1975.
In the days leading up to his departure, Chavez made clear that he saw his planned tour of OPEC nations as a key part of an approach to foreign policy centered around the belief that developing nations should carry more clout in world affairs.
"We, the small, poor nations, underdeveloped, of the Third World ... we have no alternative but to unite, whatever our geographic location," Chavez said, expressing the hope that strengthening OPEC could help with "the acceleration of processes of integration."
He declared his total support for OPEC efforts to keep control over oil output in order to maintain advantageous, stable prices.
"It's not about high prices, it's about fair prices," said Chavez.
"We have told the world, with regard to the perspective of oil consuming countries, we understand that they start to feel uneasy when crude oil prices reach 30 dollars a barrel, but that they can imagine how it must have been for us when it fell to eight dollars," he added -- CARACAS (AFP)
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