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Oil consumers, producers talk but do they listen?

Written by: Staff

DOHA, Apr 23 (Reuters) The world's oil producers and consumers agreed on Sunday record -a-barrel crude was a danger to everyone, but appeared further apart than ever in their quest to bring prices down.

Oil raced to an all-time last week as Iran continued to defy world pressure to halt its nuclear programme, a quarter of Nigeria's output lay idle after rebel attacks and Iraq's once considerable oil industry was mired in crisis.

Consuming nations -- from top energy user the United States to the emerging economies of Africa -- are afraid high energy costs will drive up inflation and cut growth. Producers fear a collapse in oil demand.

There are splits over how to pull prices away from their inflation-adjusted high of above , touched in 1980, the year after the Iranian revolution. Consumers want more oil. Producers want to be sure investing in new fields will pay off.

''The two are moving in parallel but there is no meeting point,'' OPEC President Edmund Daukoru told reporters on the second day of talks at the International Energy Forum.

The meeting brings together ministers from 65 countries, including the United States and members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Senior executives from 32 oil companies including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi state firm Saudi Aramco were also there.

''There is a need to coordinate more,'' Algerian Energy and Mining Minister Chakib Khelil said. ''We are not getting a lot of feedback from companies, they are not talking.

Irked OPEC members point out that they have increased oil output by more than 10 percent over the past six years. Saudi Arabia alone will spend billion over the next five years on new oilfields and refineries.

Now producers want consumers to come clean on their energy plans.

They note President George W. Bush has made it his goal to kick the United States' addiction to oil and Energy Secretary Sam Bodman has said he hopes for a rebirth of nuclear power.

FRUSTRATION Royal Dutch Shell's Chief Executive Jeroen van der Veer voiced the frustration of many firms and consumers here.

''We've actually spent a lot of time talking. I've lost my voice I think,'' he told Reuters.

Some OPEC delegates here say US foreign policy is partly responsible for today's record prices.

Increasingly strident exchanges between the United States and Iran over the Islamic republic's nuclear programme have raised fears that the world's fourth biggest oil exporter may halt flows, or be forced to do so by international sanctions.

The United States slapped a unilateral ban on Iran's oil in the mid-1990s, but Europe and Asia remain big customers.

Libya's top oil official Shokri Ghanem said fears of US military action against Iran had added up to to oil.

Other producers blame a lack of planning in consumer nations, particularly the United States, which uses a quarter of the world's oil and over 40 percent of its gasoline but has not built a new refinery on its soil for decades.

The planned introduction of new, cleaner gasoline in the United States this summer may lead to short-term supply disruptions, US Energy Secretary Bodman said on Friday. He is due to arrive in Doha later on Sunday.


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