OPEC summit avoids talks of oil production

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RIYADH, Nov 17 (Reuters) OPEC leaders open a two-day summit on Saturday which could offer Iran and Venezuela the chance to grandstand against Washington but will avoid discussion about whether to raise oil output.

Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, will host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is involved in a dispute with the United States that has helped push oil prices to record levels.

The United States suspects Iran wants to use its nuclear energy programme as a cover to build atomic bombs, a charge Iran denies.

Fears of a war in the region if the United States or its ally Israel stage an attack on Iran have helped drive world oil prices to nearly 0 per barrel.

Western consumer nations feeling the pinch from high prices have put pressure on the group to pump more oil. OPEC ministers say there is little it can do to help as factors beyond its control are driving the market.

The summit would leave any decision on whether to raise OPEC output to a meeting in Abu Dhabi next month, OPEC ministers said this week. The summit's final communique will focus on a readiness to tackle climate change, long-term reliability of oil supplies and energy's role in the developing world.

''It will emphasise the role of OPEC countries and oil producers in mitigating global warming,'' said one delegate. But it was not clear if OPEC, which pumps more than a third of the world's oil, would commit to providing money to fund research.

OPEC Secretary General, Abdullah al-Badri, said OPEC would be willing to play its part in developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

In a closed session of foreign and finance ministers on Friday, Saudi Arabia objected to a bid by Iran and Venezuela to highlight concern over dollar weakness in the summit communique and the group voted the proposal out.

The drop in the value of the dollar against other major currencies helped fuel oil's rally to a record .62 last week.

But it has also reduced the purchasing power of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

DOLLAR IMPACT ''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.

This week Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed OPEC finance social development programmes for poor countries and increase its diplomatic activity, in an attempt to put his self-styled socialist revolution, which has angered Washington, on the global stage.

A member of the Venezuelan delegation said OPEC officials would try to keep Chavez away from the media. The summit itself does not last long, officially opening at 1900 Riyadh time (1600 GMT) and closing on Sunday afternoon.

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.

With the summit, normally media-shy Saudi Arabia boosts its image as a robust international player after hosting an Arab summit earlier this year and leading diplomatic efforts to ease tension in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

REUTERS SR DS1135

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