OPEC follows moderate path at Caracas summit

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sovereigns and heads of state have ended their Caracas, Venezuela, meeting with a document calling for oil market stability and fair prices. They also expressed concern regarding taxation policies in industrialized countries, urged the need for dialogue between producers and consumers, and guaranteed a secure supply of petroleum.


CARACAS�Capping 2 days of speeches, meetings behind closed doors, and bilateral consultations, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sovereigns and heads of state ended their second summit in 40 years with a document calling for oil market stability and fair prices.

They also expressed concern regarding taxation policies in industrialized countries, urged the need for dialogue between producers and consumers, and guaranteed a secure supply of petroleum.

The leaders of the OPEC producers did not say exactly what price they want for their exported oil. In their speeches, and in the declaration, they simply referred to a price of oil that should be fair, just, reasonable, sustainable, acceptable, remunerative, and stable.

Host country Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez argued that oil producers were in fact "victims" of the industrialized world and are bent on securing "a fair price" for their oil, although they were willing to have an open dialogue with the developed nations on all issues, including poverty and pending Third World foreign debt.

Chavez, who was the driving force in bringing OPEC leaders for the first time in 25 years, drew applause from his OPEC colleagues when he compared the price of oil with such products as ice cream, shampoo, water, and Coca Cola.

"As a result of this summit, OPEC has emerged much stronger, moving along one path, conserving differences of focus, because we are friends of the diversity of ideas," said the Venezuelan leader. He said the OPEC summit will be held every 5 years in the future.

Chavez said OPEC nations are willing to hold a dialogue with the consumer countries and the European Union. "Let�s seek solutions to the common problems we share."

Saudi Arabia�s Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz said: "The drastic transformation in the conduct and mode of relations" that has occurred since OPEC was created 40 years ago "call for a review of the traditional function of the organization and the manner of coping and dealing with current opportunities and challenges with opened minds."

Noting that relations between OPEC and independent oil exporters must be strengthened, the Saudi prince said the organization should become "an umbrella for all the oil-producing countries, and stand ready to welcome new members who will share with us the goals and aspirations. Also, our relations with the consuming countries must develop within a framework of dialogue, understanding, and mutual interests."

Expressing his concern regarding high oil prices, he said consuming nations should ease "the burden on the ultimate consumer by reducing the excessively high taxes on petroleum."

Iranian President Khatami struck another moderate chord, saying that "market stability and the security of supply must be achieved through cooperation of all parties involved without the imposition of cost on the producing countries alone."

Underlining the need for cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers "in formulating a suitable plan for the efficient operation of the oil market," the Iranian leader said, "We must respond to the need for continued coordination through regular and high-level political and economic contacts among all oil producers and exporters."

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