Saudi king lambasts ‘speculators’ at oil price summit

JEDDAH, June 22, 2008 (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah launched an offensive against oil “speculators” on Sunday as he opened a summit on the soaring price of crude which exposed OPEC divisions over whether to increase production. The king announced that Saudi production had now risen to 9.7 million barrels a day, the highest figure since 1981, in a bid to defuse market tensions that have forced the price of a barrel up to almost 140 dollars.

The king, who said his country would give 1.5 billion dollars to efforts to ease energy shortages in poorer countries, told the 36 nation summit his country was “very concerned” about consumers everywhere.

He blamed increased oil consumption and taxes on fuel but added: “Among other factors behind this unjust increase in oil prices is the abhorrent acts of speculators seeking to undermine the market.”

The summit has seen an international debate over the cause of the doubling of oil prices in the past year.

The United States and other western powers have blamed production shortfalls while Saudi Arabia and other Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members said “speculators” have played a key role.

OPEC was split however in whether to follow Saudi Arabia