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Saudi Arabia Denies Rift Between OPEC Members - 2004-05-24


Denying a rift between OPEC members, Saudi Arabia's oil minister says the cartel is generally united in its efforts to moderate skyrocketing oil prices through an increase in production. He was speaking in Amsterdam at the end of a three-day conference between oil producing and consuming countries.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi says OPEC ministers aren't very happy with current tensions in their part of the world, but everyone - oil producers as well as consumers - is concerned about the high price of crude.

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia announced it would unilaterally increase oil production by up to two million barrels a day if the market demands it, a move welcomed by G7 leaders who called on other oil-producing nations to follow suit. But OPEC members postponed deciding on Saudi Arabia's proposal to do the same until they meet early next month in Beirut. Ali al-Naimi denied reports of a rift in the cartel over the issue.

"The only reason we didn't come out with a resolution in this meeting is simply because resolutions in OPEC are by unanimous decision. We had two of our distinguished members missing from this conference. Therefore, there is no disagreement, there is no conflict, there is nothing of the sort," he said.

Ali al-Naimi says his country is trying not to create any tension but rather wants to help moderate prices so that producers, consumers, developing nations, and economic growth are not adversely affected.

The Saudi announcement that it plans to pump more oil has already led to a drop in prices, with U.S. light crude dipping below the $40 per barrel mark for the first time in days. All here agree that stable oil prices will help worldwide economic recovery.

The good news, said the conference's Dutch host, is that the world's oil and gas supply is not in danger. But Norway's energy minister stressed that focusing on increasing that supply is only part of the solution to securing a well-balanced market and that other issues-such as speculation in the futures market, bottlenecks in production, and political unrest-must not be ignored.

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