CARACAS: As Opec held a historic gathering amid global concern over soaring oil prices, officials insisted yesterday there was plenty of oil on offer, and that the cartel had done more than its share to stabilise markets.
They also suggested industrialised nations should lower taxes on oil if they wanted to ease the burden on consumers.
“We have excess supply on the market,” Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said as Opec ministers approved a final statement to be adopted at the full summit.
The gathering of leaders of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) was only the second in the cartel’s 40-year history.
Echoing the words of other dignitaries at the Caracas meeting, Zanganeh said Opec had done more than its share to drive down prices, notably by deciding to put an additional 800,000 barrels a day on the market as of October 1.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the summit host, has said on several occasions over the past days that current prices were “just.” Representatives of the 11-member cartel are expected to reiterate their commitment to market stability – but have ruled out any concrete production increase to ease overheated markets.
Opec officials say that consumers angry over high gasoline prices should blame taxes and speculation, but not the oil-producing cartel.
Participants said the declaration approved by ministers for adoption by the summit included a reference to the taxes.
Some “cosmetic changes,” requested by Iraq and Saudi Arabia, were made to the text during a meeting of foreign, finance and oil ministers, according to several of the participants. They said the summit would underline Opec’s willingness to hold a dialogue with consumer nations, something the G7 industrialised countries and the EU had requested.
Chavez is set to address the issue in his closing remarks today, and officials said he would stress that such a dialogue could only take place as long as conditions for a “fair” discussions were set. “The only remedy against speculation is stability and the only manner to achieve stability is through an agreement between consumers and producers,” said Opec President Ali Rodriguez.
The severity of the global oil crisis was underscored by the US decision last week to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Signs emerged this week that the EU could also be considering drawing on its reserves if necessary. Rodriguez even claimed that some EU countries had already begun drawing on their reserves. But the Paris-based International Energy Agency said yesterday that its members have “absolutely” no need to draw on stocks of oil.
Leaders in Caracas include Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Indonesian Abdurrahman Wahid, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Iraqi Vice-President Taha Ramadan. – AFP