Chavez flies to Abu Dhabi on fourth leg of OPEC tour

Venezuelan President Hugo Ch�z flew to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates Wednesday on the fourth leg of his tour of member countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The tour is in preparation for the OPEC heads of state meeting in Caracas next month. Ch�z is scheduled to visit Iraq today, a plan that has caused much US handwringing.


DOHA�Venezuelan President Hugo Ch�z flew to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates Wednesday on the fourth leg of his tour of member countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The tour is in preparation for the OPEC heads of state meeting in Caracas next month.

Ch�z plans to visit Iraq today, a plan that has caused much US handwringing.

The US Department of State was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the Iraq visit�the first by a foreign head of government since the United Nations imposed sanctions against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait 10 years ago�is "particularly galling" given that Ch�z was democratically elected.

Ch�z is delivering invitations to the OPEC summit and is also looking to streamline oil policies with other members of the organization.

He wrapped up a visit to Qatar after holding two rounds of talks with the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, focusing on the oil market situation and cooperation in the energy sector. The Venezuelan president flew in from Kuwait, where he held similar talks with the emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Saud Nasser al-Sabah said after the discussions that he sees current world oil prices as reasonable.

"We are doing all we can to maintain prices as they are today," he told reporters.

The first stop on Ch�z's tour was Saudi Arabia, where he extended summit invitations to King Fahd bin Abdulaziz al Saud and Crown Prince Abdullah. In Riyadh, Ch�z called for the setting up of a joint Saudi-Venezuelan chamber of commerce and industry to study scopes of expanding trade cooperation and increasing trade exchanges.

He said he was invited by Crown Prince Abdullah to make a 5-day visit to Saudi Arabia next year to enhance bilateral economic and trade ties. Ch�z will also reaffirm the traditional friendship between the two countries and strengthen further bilateral relations in socioeconomic, political, and oil affairs, reported the OPEC News Agency.

Ch�z is being accompanied by a 60-strong delegation of senior government officials, including Minister of Energy and Mines Al�odr�ez Araque and Deputy Foreign Minister Jorge Valero, as well as Hector Ciavaldini, the president of Venezuela's state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

In comments made to the Saudi cabinet Monday, King Fahd said the visit would add further strength to relations between the two friendly countries. He referred to the important roles played by Venezuela and the kingdom in OPEC and stressed that there is a similarity of viewpoint between Saudi Arabia and Venezuela toward many oil issues.

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