Saudi Arabia to Tackle High Oil Prices

By: By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer
By: By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Saudi Arabia will call for a summit between oil producing countries and consumer states to discuss soaring energy prices, Information and Culture Minister Iyad Madani said Monday.

The kingdom will also work with OPEC to "guarantee the availability of oil supplies now and in the future," the minister said following the weekly Cabinet meeting, held in the seaport city of Jiddah.

The Saudi announcement comes just three days after the biggest single-day price leap ever, when oil surged more than $11 to surpass $139 per barrel.

Retail gas prices rose further above $4 Monday in the United States, the world's largest oil consumer, following the unprecedented price rally.

The kingdom will work to ensure there will be no "unwarranted and unnatural oil price hikes that could affect international economies, especially those of developing countries," said Madani.

"There is no justification for the current rise in prices," he said.

Thomas Petrie, a vice chairman at Merrill Lynch and an energy markets expert, said he expects oil to be in a range of $120 to $150 a barrel between now and the fall, though he acknowledged trying to pigeonhole a price point is "a bit of a pointless exercise."

"I'd be surprised if we don't end the year having reached a point where we begin to see demand patterns changing, and we start to see prices come in some from that range, but not a lot."

On Monday, light, sweet crude for July delivery fell $2.39 to $136.15 a barrel in volatile trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The world's leading economies and largest oil consumers have urged oil producers to boost output, which has stalled at about 85 million barrels a day since 2005.

Energy experts say most producers have little ability to expand output. The exception is Saudi Arabia, which is producing about 9.4 million barrels a day and has the ability to increase production by about 2 million barrels a day, but has not done so.

"The Saudi Cabinet has instructed Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi to call for a meeting in the near future that will include representatives of oil-producing countries, consumers and companies that work in extracting, exporting and selling oil to look into the price hike, its causes and how to deal with it," said Madani.

The current president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Chakib Khelil, has said that the cartel will make no new decision on production levels until its Sept. 9 meeting in Vienna.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.).


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