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Saudi Oil Chief: No Price Conspiracy   12/21 07:41

   ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's oil chief on Sunday 
dismissed allegations that his kingdom conspired to bring down oil prices in 
order to harm other countries and told a summit of Arab energy leaders that he 
was confident the market would stabilize.

   The kingdom, which is dependent on oil revenues, is able to weather lower 
oil prices due to large reserves built up over the years. Non-OPEC member 
Russia and other nations like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela need prices 
substantially above present levels to meet budget goals and want to drive 
prices up.

   Saudi Arabia maintains it is opposed to cutting production because of fears 
its market share could erode.

   "The best thing for everybody is to let the most efficient produce," Saudi 
Petroleum Minister Ali Naimi said in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu 
Dhabi. He was addressing the Arab Energy Conference, a gathering held every 
four years.

   The price of U.S. crude has dipped below $60 a barrel, its lowest in five 
years. Naimi said he was certain that the oil market would recover with the 
improvement of the global economy.

   An OPEC meeting last month failed to agree on production cuts, mainly 
because of Saudi opposition to curb its own exports. OPEC controls about 40 
percent of the world oil market and Saudi Arabia is the cartel's largest 

   Naimi said that "a lack of cooperation by non-OPEC production nations, along 
with the spread of misinformation and speculator's greed" have contributed to 
the drop in prices.

   Some market speculators have suggested the kingdom is forcing lower prices 
to damage the economies of nations such as Russia and the Shiite powerhouse 
Iran, staunch backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Saudi Arabia backs the 
mainly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Assad.

   Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the sharp fall in 
global oil prices was the result of "treachery," a remark interpreted as a 
reference to Saudi Arabia.

   "I want to say from this podium that talk about a Saudi conspiracy has no 
basis of accuracy at all and points to a misunderstanding," Naimi said. 


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