How far are oil-exporting countries using their strong
position to gain influence in world politics? [EPA]
With oil prices tickling the historic $100-a-barrel mark and politicians urging producers to loosen the taps, the world is focusing on next week's rare gathering of Opec heads of state in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Critics of Opec say it must act more aggressively to bring prices down. But Opec has blamed speculation by market traders - who can make money by betting on the future direction of prices - for the continuing price rises.

We ask what the factors behind the latest surge are. Is it tension in Iraq, increasing demand from China, or market speculation? Or perhaps a combination of these factors?
On the political side it seems that oil wealth has given governments of exporting countries the capability to play bigger political roles on the world scene, including Russia, Venezuela, Iran and the Gulf countries. How far are these countries taking advantage of their strong position in trying to become more influential in world politics?
Find out on Inside Story at 1730 GMT
Watch Part One here:

Watch Part Two here:

This episode of Inside Story aired on Sunday November 11, 2007

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