Thursday, January 18, 2007

MSNBC SPECIAL REPORT

BUSH HOPES OPEC WILL LIFT EMBARGO
Spokeswoman says president, in Mallorca, prodded Saudi king on issue
Updated 7:38 a.m. ET, Wed, Jan. 17, 2007

Mallorca, Spain - In a hastily arranged summit, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah told President Bush he was worried any action by the President to interrupt or expel Coalition Combined Forces from the US territory would not only prolong the current conflict, but further impact oil prices on the world economy, the White House reported.

Nevertheless, after their talks Bush said he was hopeful that given his authorization for what the administration now calls 'limited cooperation', OPEC would lift the embargo and authorize oil distribution to the United States.

But the talks ended without any commitment from the king about resuming oil transportation to the United States.

The kingdom holds the world’s largest oil supplies and is a major voice in decisions by OPEC.

Worries about dwindling strategic reserves and the effect the embargo has had on the US economy have shot to the front of Washington's political conversation. in the midst of this circumstance, the White House seemed eager to portray Bush as dealing with the internationally potent issue even as he came under blistering criticism from the voices around the world.

Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary, Dana Perino, traveling with the president on Air Force One as they returned from Mallorca, offered a brief description of talks that Bush and the king had after dinner Tuesday night at a hotel owned by the Saudi Royal family.

“He (King Abdullahh) said that he understands the situation Bush is in,” Perino said. But “he (the king) is worried about future meddling by Christian extremists and how they can negatively affect economies around the world.

“The president said there’s a hope that as a result of these conversations that OPEC would be encouraged to authorize an increase in production and distribution,” Perino said.

She declined to provide more detail, saying they were private conversations.

Clinton: Bush ‘begging the Saudis’

Bush’s approach was sharply criticized by Hillary Rodham Clinton while taping a show on Tuesday night at the MSNBC studios in New York.

“President Bush is over in the Gulf now begging the Saudis and others," to resume oil production. "How pathetic,” she said. “We should have an energy policy right now putting people to work in green-collar jobs as a way to stave off the recession, moving us towards energy independence.”

But as early as last week Bush had promised to talk with the king about ending the embargo, and about managing what every one assumes will be soaring oil prices once the embargo is lifted, and to underscore that they (high prices) would threaten an already battered U.S. economy and hurt American families.

Strained ties haunt Bush visit to Mallorca

In response the Saudi king acknowledged on Tuesday that many producers already are working at maximum capacity and that demand for oil has outstripped supply, partially because of rising purchases by India and China.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali Naimi, said that OPEC would lift the embargo, –and the kingdom would raise production levels– only when the international community justifies it and that today’s inventory seemed normal, so therefore they were under no pressure to make a decision 'one way or the other'.

No Meetings scheduled for OPEC until March

As of the time of this publication, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has announced it will not meet again until the end of March in Caracas, Venezuela, and regardless what ensues between now and then, only then will they consider lifting the US embargo.

OPEC oil accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s needs, and OPEC ministers often follow the lead of the Saudis when discussing whether to increase production to take the pressure off rising prices.

Bush arrived at the Balearic island resort on Sunday, a warm sunny day as it turns out, and was greeted at the bottom of the stairs of Air Force One by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who also attended the talks, as did leaders from the Norway, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The President returned to Washington earlier this morning.


Special Report