OPEC disagreement over Iraq

A late-night meeting did little to end a deadlock among OPEC members over the post-war return of Iraq to the 11-nation oil cartel.

    It is unclear what role Iraq's Governing Council will have in OPEC

    Members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting (OPEC)could not agree on Tuesday how Iraq is to be represented at an OPEC assembly meeting in Vienna on Wednesday.

    "There's no decision yet. We're looking for a consensus," Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters.

    But Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah said: "I think Iraq will attend because they are a full member" of OPEC.

    He said that "almost everyone" agrees with this, with Venezuela however still dissenting.

    On Monday Ramirez said that the Iraqi government should be recognised internationally before being allowed to sit as a full member at a meeting of the cartel.

    "There's no decision yet. We're looking for a consensus" 

    Rafael Ramirez,
    Venezuelan Oil Minister

    "OPEC is not a political organisation and cannot recognise a government which has not been first recognised by the United Nations," Ramirez told reporters.

    UN backing

    "Venezuela hopes that Iraq will be integrated into OPEC but only when its internal situation has been resolved and when there has been an official declaration from the United Nations," he said.

    Iraq is an undisputed oil heavyweight, even if its production is now crippled by post-war reconstruction.

    It has the world's second-largest reserves after Saudi Arabia – 115 billion barrels to the Saudi's 261.7 billion, according to an international energy publication.

    Iraq was producing 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the late 1970s before the Iran-Iraq war and up to 2.8 million bpd in February before the US-led war began.

    But Iraq was only exporting 900,000 bpd at the end of August, officials in Baghdad said.

    Iraq's oil production has been excluded from OPEC quotas since 1990 when the United Nations slapped sanctions on Baghdad following its invasion of Kuwait.

    SOURCE: AFP


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