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Talks with Iran slated on sidelines of Jeddah meet

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P. Chidambaram
P. Chidambaram

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Minister of Oil and Natural Gas, Murli Deora held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi on Saturday, amid global concerns about spiralling oil prices and its knock-on effect on inflation.

The two Ministers, who arrived in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah on Saturday evening, are heading a high-level delegation to Sunday’s day-long meeting of oil producing and consuming countries. Mr. Chidambaram has mainly attributed India’s 11.05 per cent inflation rate to the sky-rocketing of oil prices.

Keeping energy security in focus, the Indian side is holding talks with the Iranians on the sidelines of the conference. The India-Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and possible Indian investments in Iran are expected to feature during this meeting. “Bilateral meetings with the representatives from Iran and Venezuela as well as the Secretary General of the International Energy Forum (IEF) have already been fixed, and some more are in the pipeline,” diplomatic sources told The Hindu over telephone from Jeddah.

The Indian delegates were also hoping to hold talks with Pakistan, but would now be unable to do so as Islamabad is not sending a delegation to the meeting, the sources observed. The Petroleum Secretary, M.S. Srinivasan and the head of the ONGC-Videsh (OVL), R.S.Butola are part of the Indian delegation. The External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee is expected to follow-up on talks with the Iranians during his visit to Tehran late next month.

On Sunday, host Saudi Arabia, OPEC, the Paris based International Energy Agency (IEA) and IEF will make a joint presentation on the Current Oil Market Conditions.

Sources pointed out that key industrialised countries and oil exporters led by Saudi Arabia differ on the root cause of the hike in prices. The western countries cite the gap between global oil supply and demand as the chief cause of the hike. However, Saudi Arabia attributes the rise mainly to speculation in the futures market.

Analysts say that the communiqué that will be issued at the end of the conference is expected to back heavy investments in oil exploration and construction of refineries so that supplies are kept in step with the growing global demand. Simultaneously, the statement is likely to address the perception that market funds speculating in oil futures have played their role to push oil to almost $140 a barrel.

Ahead of the conference, Iran has blamed sanctions that have been imposed against Tehran and geopolitical tensions in the region as major contributory factors to the rise in prices.


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