Saudi king 'ready to tackle rising oil prices'

Saudi Arabia’s king is ready to help restore the soaring oil prices to more “appropriate” levels, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said today.

The UN secretary-general spoke after meeting Saudi King Abdullah in the port city of Jiddah during a one-day trip to the world’s largest oil producer.

“The king believes that the current oil prices are abnormally high, and he is ready to restore prices to their appropriate levels,” the official Saudi News Agency quoted Ban.

Saudi Arabia has called for a meeting of oil producing and consuming countries on June 22 in Jiddah to discuss ways of dealing with soaring energy prices.

The New York Times yesterdy reported, citing unnamed analysts and oil traders briefed by Saudi officials, that a production increase of about 500,000 barrels per day was to be announced following the meeting.

The Saudi oil minister’s adviser said that the minister would address the production increase reports the next day. But today, the adviser, Ibrahim al-Muhanna, said there was no meeting scheduled.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, is concerned that sustained high oil prices will eventually slacken the world’s appetite for oil, affecting the kingdom in the long run.

Crude prices have reached record highs, surpassing 139 dollars per barrel on June 6 after surging nearly 11 dollars in the biggest single-day price leap ever.

The prices had receded by Friday, with the benchmark light, sweet crude for July delivery falling 1.88 dollars to settle at 134.86 dollars on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, July Brent crude lost 1.84 dollars to settle at 134.25 dollars on the ICE Futures exchange.

The current president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Chakib Khelil, has said that the cartel will make no new decision on production levels until its September 9 meeting in Vienna. OPEC ministers often follow the lead of the Saudis when discussing whether to increase production to take the pressure off rising prices.

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