SANTIAGO, Nov 10 (Reuters) Ecuador President Rafael Correa, whose country is expected to rejoin the OPEC oil cartel later this month, said on Saturday he saw oil prices remaining high for some five or six years amid high demand from China.
''Oil prices will continue to be high for some five or six years because of high demand from countries like China and India and due to problems in Iraq,'' Correa told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Ibero-American summit of Latin leaders in Chile.
Oil prices reached record highs of more than per barrel this week and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said on Friday he saw crude prices continuing to rise.
Correa said prices would also stay high amid supplies that will remain stretched until new wells are brought on line.
''This new oil will not be available for extraction for at least another five years, but there are clear signs that new discoveries will come on line,'' Correa said.
Ecuador, a small oil producer with an output of 500,000 barrels per day, was invited to OPEC's mid-November summit in Saudi Arabia, where government officials expect cartel members to approve Quito's petition to rejoin the group.
''A return to the OPEC will benefit Ecuador because of the privileged information in these kinds of groups and because of the high technology used by its members,'' Correa said in the Chilean capital Santiago.
OPEC, which supplies over 40 percent of the world's oil, is an international cartel made up of Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
The Vienna-based cartel was formed to coordinate members' petroleum policies and safeguard their interests by ensuring stable prices on international markets.
Ecuador withdrew from from OPEC in 1992 together with Gabon because of membership fee issues and because they felt they needed to produce more oil than they were permitted under the OPEC quota.
Ecuador is South America's No 5 oil producer.
OPEC presidents will meet in Riyadh for their summit on Nov. 17-18 and the cartel's next ministerial meeting is set for Dec. 5 in Abu Dubai.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Ecuador was the 11th biggest foreign oil supplier to the United States, with shipments of 189,000 bpd, during the first seven months of this year. But its output is dwarfed by other OPEC members.
Correa said Ecuador has not taken advantage of the oil boom like other producer countries, and pledged to form alliances with other regional state oil companies in the region to boost his country's output.
''We have a limited time frame to resolve our oil problems before prices start to fall again,'' he said.
REUTERS SLD HT2002