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Bush Urges OPEC to Raise Output

President Bush is calling on the world's major oil-producing countries to increase their output. Mr. Bush will visit Egypt Wednesday on the final stop of his eight-day tour of the Middle East. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports the latest comments came in Saudi Arabia, where Mr. Bush also issued another warning to Iran.

President Bush is publicly urging OPEC to increase oil supply on international markets, and he is doing it while in the world's largest oil producing country.

Speaking to a small group of reporters here in Riyadh, the president sought to drive home the impact higher oil prices are having in the United States and elsewhere.

With oil prices recently at $100 a barrel, Mr. Bush said American consumers are feeling the pain. He warned that high energy prices can damage consuming economies.

Earlier in the day, during a session with Saudi entrepreneurs, the president said he is raising the issue in talks with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.

"I talked to the Ambassador, and will again talk to His Majesty tonight about the fact that oil prices are very high, which is tough on our economy, and that I would hope, as OPEC considers different production levels, that they understand that if their - one of their biggest consumers' economy suffers, it will mean less purchases, less oil and gas sold," Mr. Bush said.

When asked about the president's call for increased OPEC production, Saudi Oil minister Ali Naimi was noncommittal.

"We will raise production when the market justifies it. This is our policy," Naimi said.

Another issue the president is raising here is Iran.

During the session with journalists, he once again spoke about the January 6 incident involving Iranian speed boats and American ships in the Gulf. The president said Iran should be careful and there would be serious consequences if the Iranians attacked a U.S. vessel in international waters.

All the same, Mr. Bush told the reporters that he has assured Arab leaders throughout his Mideast tour that he wants to solve the matter diplomatically.

President Bush will have plenty of time to bring up the oil issue and Iran with King Abdullah in the final evening of his stay in the Middle East. Mr. Bush will be an overnight guest at the Saudi leader's country estate near Riyadh, where he raises thoroughbred horses. In 2002 and 2005, then Crown Prince Abdullah paid similar visits to the president's ranch in Texas.