US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson renewed support Sunday for oil at $20-25 a barrel but stressed that market forces should be the driving factor, not a fixed price band.
"We think that should be arrived at by market forces," Richardson told reporters at the end of a three-day summit between producers and consumers.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi, in contrast, urged the International Energy Forum to seek a deal on a price band.
Richardson warned that the peaks of $35 a barrel reached recently were "much too high" and may even hit US jobs.
”Right now the (US) economy is strong, but it is a potential threat to all economies," he said agreeing with a question that US jobs could be at stake if high oil costs continued.
He had earlier spoken of progress between consumers and producers at the forum.
"I think a consensus is emerging, that confrontration is over," Richardson said. "Several producer and consumer countries said that."
Richardson, representing the world's biggest oil consumer, underlined that both sides had begun to reach common ground, dubbing the talks between more than 400 delegates "very productive".
Qatar's Oil Minister Abdullah Hamad al-Attiyah praised US support for a "reasonable" oil price as a first and "very positive".
Richardson called Saturday for oil at $20-25 a barrel after months of record high prices and warnings of damage to the global economy and particularly to developing nations.
He said a Saudi proposal to set up a permanent secretariat for the Energy Forum had garnered "strong support".
"Everyone is agreeing to study it," he said. "It's a good first step."
Richardson said the forum had agreed to form a working group of several countries to study the proposal in depth.
Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh described the secretariat as a new mechanism for continued dialogue between consumers and producers, "a mechanism to coordinate and make an agenda for future discussions."
He said it posed no threat to existing bodies such as the OPEC cartel of oil producers or the West's energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)