Bush raises fears over oil price hike with Saudis

US President George Bush said today that he is having discussions with Saudi King Abdullah about the recent surge in oil prices.

US President George Bush said today that he is having discussions with Saudi King Abdullah about the recent surge in oil prices.

“It’s tough on our economy,” President Bush said before he began roundtable talks with Saudi business leaders.

“I would hope that as (oil organisation) Opec considers (its response to higher prices) that they understand when their biggest consumer’s economy suffers, it means less purchases, less oil and gas sold.”

President Bush spoke at the US Embassy in Riyadh where he was meeting young Saudi business owners. The group included two women.

He appealed to one of Saudis’ biggest gripes about the US when he acknowledged that the US has excluded many Saudis from visiting the country by installing tight visa restrictions following the September 11 terrorist attacks. The president said visas were “tightened to the point where we missed opportunities.”

President Bush said he thinks the United States benefits from having foreign students studying in America and carrying their views of the US home.

Saudi Arabia holds the world’s largest oil reserves and surging fuel costs are putting a major strain on the troubled US economy. Oil prices recently surged past 100 dollars a barrel, hitting fuel and energy prices.

Oil from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) accounts for about 40% of the world’s needs, and Opec ministers usually follow the lead of the Saudis when discussing whether to increase production to take the pressure off oil prices. The Saudis’ views carry great weight because they are responsible for almost a third of Opec’s total output.

The issue of high oil prices also has come up in earlier stops on Bush’s eight-day trip, largely in the context of his quest for alternate fuels and sources of energy.

White House official Ed Gillespie said Mideast leaders have “talked about the nature of the market and the vast demand that’s on the world market today for oil.” He said that was “a legitimate and accurate point.”

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