RIYADH (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told an OPEC summit on Saturday crude oil prices could double to $200 if the United States attacked his ally Iran.
“If the United States is crazy enough to attack Iran or commit aggression against Venezuela … oil would not be $100 but $200,” Chavez told the summit in the Saudi capital.
Chavez addressed a hall containing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a comrade-in-arms against Western influence.
Fears the United States or its ally Israel could attack Iran over its nuclear energy programme — which Washington says is a cover for developing atomic weapons — have helped drive world oil prices to record levels. Tehran denies the charge.
Oil has lapped against the $100-mark this month, prompting consumer nations to call on the exporter group to provide the market with more crude.
OPEC oil ministers said earlier this week in Riyadh that the summit, which ends on Sunday, will leave any decision on whether to raise OPEC output to a meeting in Abu Dhabi on December 5.
A draft final communique says only that OPEC seeks “stability of global energy markets” and oil ministers including Saudi Arabia’s say factors beyond their control limit OPEC’s powers.
That cleared the way for OPEC ministers to try to steer the summit towards relatively uncontroversial environmental issues.
The group “shares the international community’s concern that climate change is a long-term challenge”, the draft says.
OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri said this week OPEC would be willing to play its part in developing carbon capture and storage technology to help reduce emissions in the air.
Though the draft makes no mention of an environmental fund with consumer countries to which OPEC would contribute — an idea floated in forums this week — King Abdullah told the opening session Saudi Arabia would give $300 million towards environmental research.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia steered the group towards rebuffing an attempt by Iran and Venezuela to highlight concern over dollar weakness in the summit communique.
The drop in the value of the dollar against other major currencies helped fuel oil’s rally to a record $98.62 last week. Yet it has also reduced the purchasing power of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Chavez’s address on Saturday set the stage for a summit that could see more anti-U.S. rhetoric emanate from the capital of one of its closest allies.
“OPEC must stand up and act as a vanguard against poverty in the world,” self-styled socialist revolutionary Chavez said.
“OPEC should be a more active geopolitical agent and demand more respect for our countries … and ask powerful nations to stop threatening OPEC.”
Saudi Arabia’s octogenarian leader, who sat stony-faced throughout the 25-minute speech, was heard joking to Chavez afterwards: “You went on a bit!” Ahmadinejad told reporters he would make his views felt on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia this month proposed setting-up a consortium to provide Iran with enriched uranium for peaceful purposes in an effort to defuse the tension between Washington and Tehran. Iran said it would not halt its own enrichment programme.
Worried by a resurgent Iran with potential nuclear capability, Gulf Arab countries, including OPEC producers Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have said they will start a nuclear energy programme of their own.