Opec rivalries to hamper agreement over top post
London, October 22, 2012
Opec is likely to find reaching a consensus difficult in talks this week on selecting its new secretary general, delegates to the producer group said, due to rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran over its top administrative post.
A panel of officials is meeting at the Vienna headquarters of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Monday and Tuesday. Its role, say delegates, is to advise Opec oil ministers on who should succeed Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri, whose term ends in December.
Opec has often struggled to agree on a secretary general and the task of comes as Western sanctions on Iran have heightened political tensions within the group. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Ecuador have all nominated candidates.
"It will be hard for the committee to recommend a candidate," said an Opec delegate, who like other officials declined to be identified. "In my opinion the Saudi Arabia candidate is the most qualified, but Iran would never be ok with this."
The panel consists mainly of Opec governors - oil officials who represent their countries on the group's board of governors - and it is likely to interview each candidate.
Opec delegates say the four candidates are Saudi Arabia's OPEC governor, Majid Al-Moneef; Thamir Ghadhban, energy adviser to Iraq's prime minister; former Iranian oil minister Gholam Hossein Nozari; and the oil minister of Ecuador, Wilson Pastor.
"It is not going to be easy," said an Opec source, referring to whether the panel will be able to recommend a candidate. "For a secretary general to be appointed, all 12 have to agree."
The secretary general is the main representative on the world stage of the producer group, helps formulate its output policy and is in charge of Opec's Vienna secretariat.
Any decision on Badri's successor will be made by Opec's oil ministers at their December 12 meeting. Without sufficient progress at the talks this week, the panel could hold another meeting before December, Opec sources said.
The post has tended to go to officials from smaller Opec producers to spread influence beyond top producer Saudi Arabia and Iran, Opec's traditional number two whose output has now been overtaken by Iraq as sanctions curb Iran's oil sales.
Badri's appointment, starting in 2007, ended a three-year impasse over the job. Opec officials have also raised the possibility of Badri being asked to remain in the post beyond the end of his term if a successor cannot be chosen. – Reuters