Chavez's OPEC Speech Spurs
Rebuke From Saudi King
By DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
November 17, 2007 3:46 p.m.
RIYADH -- Venezuela's firebrand President Hugo Chavez appears to have earned for the second time in a week a rebuke from a king, with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah implying he shouldn't seek to use the oil cartel OPEC as a political weapon.
Mr. Chavez also warned the United States that oil prices would further surge if the U.S. contemplates an attack against his country or Iran.
Exactly a week after Mr. Chavez was told to "shut up" by the King of Spain, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said the 13-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel -- Ecuador rejoined the group this weekend -- shouldn't be used as a tool for conflict.
His remarks came in a speech minutes after Mr. Chavez told fellow leaders of OPEC Saturday that it must echo its values at the time of its creation and "assert itself as an active political agent."
In the opening speech at the OPEC heads of state summit in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, Mr. Chavez said the group, created from five member countries in 1960 in part as a counterpoint to the so-called "Seven Sisters" oil majors, had been "born as a geopolitical body."
At the last heads of state summit in Caracas in 2000, "OPEC was reborn" Mr. Chavez added. "Back then, oil was at about $10 a barrel. Today I hand over the chair with a barrel at around $100."
OPEC is "stronger than its ever been in its history" and it must "become a stronger player in the geopolitical domains" and play a role in battling poverty and assisting development, he said.
"Those who want OPEC to take advantage of its position are forgetting that OPEC has always acted moderately and wisely," King Abdullah said in a speech immediately after Mr. Chavez's.
"Oil shouldn't be a tool for conflict, it should be a tool for development," he added.
A Saudi official told Dow Jones Newswires that the kingdom had readied itself for a traditional, high-octane Chavez speech, which historically have been fueled by anti-U.S. rhetoric.
At around 10 minutes long, Mr. Chavez's speech was unusually short by his standards, given he has a reputation for talking for hours without interruption.
A week ago at a summit in Chile, Mr. Chavez accused former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of backing a coup that briefly ousted him in 2002, repeatedly calling Mr. Aznar a "fascist."
Spain's current prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, asked Mr. Chavez to be more diplomatic and show respect for other leaders. As Mr. Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, King Juan Carlos leaned forward and said: "Why don't you shut up?" Mr. Chavez has demand an apology.
Saturday in Riyadh, Mr. Chavez reiterated recent comments that $100 a barrel was a fair price for crude, given than it equaled $30-$35 a barrel from the 1970s, but any attack on Iran would spur prices to $200 a barrel.