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OPEC summit to back climate change fight

RIYADH, -- OPEC will back the fight against global warming at a heads of state meeting this weekend and affirm its commitment to “stable, competitive” oil prices, according to the summit’s draft declaration.

The group “shares the international community’s concern that climate change is a long-term challenge”, according to the statement read over the telephone by an OPEC delegate. OPEC also seeks “stability of global energy markets”, it says.

Leaders arriving for the summit, which opens at 1600 GMT, include Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Both are engaged in diplomatic disputes with the United States, to which Saudi Arabia is closely allied, that have helped drive world oil prices to nearly US$100 per barrel.

Consumer nations feeling the pinch from record oil prices have put pressure on OPEC to pump more oil. OPEC ministers say there is little they can do as factors beyond their control are driving the market.

OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri said this week that OPEC would be willing to play its part in developing carbon capture and storage technology to help reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels.

But the draft statement made no mention of an environmental fund with consumer countries to which OPEC would contribute, an idea floated in forums ahead of the summit, the delegate said.

In the OPEC statement, agreed during a closed session of OPEC oil, finance and foreign ministers on Friday, the group also sounded a warning.

“Measures or legislation undermining the spirit of producer-consumer cooperation would jeopardize market stability and energy security,” it reads, the delegate said.

During the session on Friday, Saudi Arabia objected to an attempt by Iran and Venezuela to highlight concern over dollar weakness in the summit communique and the group voted the proposal out.

The summit, which ends on Sunday, would leave any decision on whether to raise OPEC output to a meeting in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 5, OPEC ministers said this week.

The drop in the value of the dollar against other major currencies helped fuel oil’s rally to a record US$98.62 last week. But it has also reduced the purchasing power of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“My fear is that any mention that OPEC makes of studying the issue of the dollar, will in itself have an impact,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told the session, part of which was mistakenly broadcast live to reporters.

Security will be so tight in the Saudi capital — which has been hit by militant attacks since 2003 — that a two-day public holiday has been declared since many central roads are closed.

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