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Iraq Names Ghadhban to Head OPEC, Opposing Saudi Candidate

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March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq nominated former Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban for the post of OPEC secretary-general, competing against a candidate from Saudi Arabia, the organization’s de facto leader.

The Iraqi Cabinet approved naming Ghadhban, the 67-year-old current top adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, as head of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, according to an e-mailed statement. He was oil minister in 2004 and 2005, after the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein.

The Gulf state is the third-largest producer in OPEC, supplier of about 40 percent of the world’s oil, after Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iraq is pumping more than 3 million barrels a day, its highest since Hussein seized power in 1979, Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi said yesterday. The secretary-general often helps members reach consensus on output policy and represents the group in dealings with governments and other international organizations.

“It’s only normal for Iraq to try to reach that position since it will become the second-biggest producer in OPEC within three or four years,” Ruba Husari, an energy analyst who runs the Iraq Oil Forum website, said by phone from Dubai. “Iraq was a founding member of OPEC and has been practically a non-player for almost three decades, so it makes sense for them to try to get that position.”

Saudi has Upper Hand

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, nominated Majid al-Moneef, its OPEC governor, as head of the producer group, a person with knowledge of the matter said Feb. 1.

“Saudi Arabia has another candidate, but it has never needed the position as it has the upper hand anyway because it is the largest producer, so at the end the secretary-general will be chosen by consensus because this is the way things are done in OPEC,” Husari said.

OPEC’s current secretary-general, Abdalla el-Badri of Libya, will complete his second three-year term at the end of this year, after first taking over on Jan. 1, 2007.

El-Badri’s selection as secretary-general in 2007 ended a three-year deadlock over a permanent appointment for the position. The one-time chairman of Libya’s National Oil Co. was then picked over rival candidates from Iran and Kuwait.

Each of OPEC’s 12 members appoints a governor and a national representative to the group. The governor sits on the board, helping to manage the organization and its budget, while the representative’s duties include analyzing the oil market.

Iraq’s production has been rising steadily after years of conflict, sanctions and sabotage. The nation holds the world’s fifth-largest crude deposits that also include Canadian oil sands, according to data from BP Plc.

OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. The group’s ministers are due to meet next in June.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nayla Razzouk in Dubai at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at