Bush complains over oil prices

US president urges Opec to take corrective measures during visit to Saudi Arabia.

    Bush said spiralling oil prices adversely
    affected the US economy [AFP]

    "I would hope that as Opec considers [its response to higher prices] that they understand when their biggest consumer's economy suffers, it means less purchases, less oil and gas sold," Bush said.

    Opec officials have said the group's ability to lower oil prices was limited.
       
    According to Abdullah al-Badri, the secretary-general of Opec, oil output may be raised at meetings on February 1 and March 5.

    Al-Badri said that supply was sufficient for now, and attributed rising prices to speculation.

    Saudi arms deal
     
    Meanwhile, Bush has said he intends to go ahead with a $20bn arms deal to Saudi Arabia.
     
    Just hours after his arrival to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Monday, the US administration officially notified congress of the controversial plan, part of a wider multibillion-dollar deal with Gulf Arab states.

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    The announcement begins a 30-day review period in which congress could try to block the deal, which includes satellite-guided weaponry and high-tech munitions.
     
    The deal has alarmed Israel and some congressmen since it was unveiled last July, as Saudi Arabia refuses to recognise the Jewish state.


    Rob Reynolds, reporting for Al Jazeera from Riyadh, said the deal was likely to provoke controversy in congress.

     

    He said: "There are political questions in the US, always, involving any arms sales to Arab countries because of the very strong support in the US congress for Israel."


    "The US congress needs to approve this arms deal - that's US law."

     
    The sale appeared to be part of Bush's effort to persuade Saudi Arabia to help contain Iran and offset what he has branded a danger to the oil-rich region and to the world's security.
     
    Bid to isolate Iran
     
    Ratcheting up the rhetoric, Bush declared in a speech in Abu Dhabi earlier this week that Iran was "the world's leading state sponsor of terror".
     
    Tehran denounced Bush's comments as "words without value".
     
    During his visit to Saudi Arabia, his first visit to the oil-rich US ally, Bush hopes to rally support for his campaign to isolate Iran.
     
    His administration, which has also announced a $30bn military aid pact with Israel, has argued the deal with the Saudis is needed to counter what it claims is a "major security threat" from Iran.
     
    While Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has voiced concern over the rise of Shia Iran, it is opposed to another war after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that has strengthened the government in Tehran.

     
    Diplomatic tour

    Bush intends to garner support for US
    stance towards Iran [AFP]

    A senior US official said Bush would also use his trip to court Riyadh's diplomatic influence and financial muscle which "could make an enormous difference in places like the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations".
     
    In the last few days of his Middle East tour, Bush has been courting Gulf Arab allies to help shore up a US-backed peace effort between Israel and the Palestinians and combat Iran's growing influence in the region.
     
    Saudi Arabia is considered a linchpin for any broader Israeli-Arab reconciliation as Bush presses Israelis and the Palestinians to secure a peace deal before he leaves office in January 2009.
     
    Iran was also expected to be an important part of Bush's talks with King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, and was also discussed in Bush's earlier meetings with Gulf Arab leaders in the UAE.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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