Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez finished his tour of OPEC countries Tuesday, leaving Algeria -- his last port of call -- on a confident note and pledging success at a September summit in Caracas. "The success of the Caracas summit is guaranteed," Chavez said here, adding that his talks with OPEC leaders on his often controversial tour had "exceeded our expectations."
Chavez said that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries could even expand at the conference marking its 40th anniversary, with the possibility of Russia, Norway and Oman signing up to the cartel.
The summit will be held from 26-28 September, according to a joint communique from the Algerian and Venezuelan governments.
He likewise called for a "new OPEC ... capable of facing the challenges of the future" and proposed the creation of the organisation's own bank and university.
Another proposal was for the summit to be held every four or five years. The sole OPEC summit so far was held in Algiers in 1975.
Six heads of state have confirmed their participation at the summit, said Chavez, who has visited the member states of Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
He said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Libyan leader Moamer Khadhafi, Saudi King Fahd and Kuwait's Emir had all said they would not be able to attend but had promised to send high-ranking delegations.
Those who confirmed their places are Algeria, Iran, Indonesia, Nigeria, Qatar and the UAE.
Chavez called on OPEC leaders to face up to the pressures of industrialised nations trying to push down oil prices, as the benhcmark Brent crude oil soared to over 32 dollars a barrel Tuesday. The Venezuelan leader has argued for common a strategy to guarantee market equilibrium and defend a fair price."
Chavez, who holds the cartel's rotating presidency, spoke in Nigeria on Monday about the need to strengthen support for a price band system adopted this year. "If the price of oil rises beyond the ceiling of $28 a barrel, as happened in April and July, then OPEC will automatically increase its production by 500,000 barrels a day to prevent further increase in price," he said.
Vowing that he would "never allow OPEC to fall to its knees," he said he was determined to "defend the peoples of OPEC countries" and boost the development of the Third World.
Noting the widespread poverty in oil-rich Nigeria, he said in Abuja: "When we came into government in Venezuela, oil price was at its lowest, at under eight dollars a barrel. Practically this means a death sentence to all our people."
Chavez annoyed the United States last week when he became the first head of state to visit Baghdad since the 1991 Gulf War and the imposition of crippling embargoes on the country.
The diplomatic coup was strengthened when Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid also said that he plans to visit Iraq shortly.
On bilateral ties, Chavez and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen relations between Caracas and Algiers with regular consultations.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )