"Viva la Revolucion" in Riyadh -- for 24 hours

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RIYADH, Nov 19 (Reuters) It was ''Viva la Revolucion'' in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Riyadh was host at an OPEC summit to two leaders whose populist, anti-Western style is about as far removed from Saudi Arabia's closely controlled, pro-Western autocracy as could be imagined.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez brought a flash of revolutionary fervour not seen in Saudi Arabia since Egypt's champion of developing world rights, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, visited in 1956.

Chavez, self-proclaimed champion of the poor, vaunted the producer group's ability to ensure high oil prices for developing nations, partly to make up for perceived Western injustices towards the rest of the world.

''(OPEC) must stand up and act as a vanguard against poverty in the world,'' he told the summit.

King Abdullah, whose country often repays U.S. support by softening oil price spikes that could jolt the industrialised world's economy, sat stony-faced and silent, as did other Gulf Arab leaders allied with the United States.

In the birthplace of Islam, Chavez made the sign of the cross and cited Jesus Christ as inspiration in an anti-colonial fight against the West, where he sees OPEC as the vanguard.

''The only way to peace, as Christ said, is justice,'' he told the audience. ''All of us here have engaged in the Third World's struggles, the people who have been colonised, invaded and oppressed for centuries.'' Saudi Arabia has been a close ally of Washington since the 1950s, acting as guarantor of an easy supply of crude oil to world markets through its status as OPEC's ''swing producer''.

Opposition groups throughout the Arab world have long viewed the Saudi royals -- who rule unchallenged in one of the most conservative countries in the world -- as a retrograde force, wedded to Washington and a medieval religious creed.

If Saudi Arabia's rulers have little in common with Chavez, they are hardly better disposed towards Iran.

Saudi Arabia shares U.S. anxiety that Iran's nuclear energy programme is a front for gaining atomic weapons in an effort to tip the regional balance of power away from pro-Western governments such as Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's Sunni Muslim establishment views Iran's Shi'ite Islam as almost heretical, adding to the deep distaste among Saudi ruling elites for Iran's current leadership.

Ahmadinejad told a packed news conference after the OPEC summit ended on Sunday that U.S. threats of military action over his nuclear plans were part of a grab for resources that he was sure Tehran's ''friends and brothers'' would not support.

''Their policies to control the region's resources have completely failed,'' he said, accusing the United States of seeking to deny Iran and other countries the right to develop new sources of energy such as nuclear power.

If it was all uncomfortable listening for the Saudi royals, it was at least predictable enough for the state-dominated media to warn foreign correspondents in advance what to expect.

Jamal Khashoggi, editor of the daily al-Watan, said Iran and Venezuela wanted to create a ''media frenzy'' in Riyadh to grandstand to their own publics back home.

Reuters DKS BST0747

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