Bush Ends 10-Day Mideast Trip At Oil Refinery Owned by Friend
MARIB, North Yemen (AP) _ Vice President George Bush ended a 10-day trip to the Middle East Saturday on a hot, dusty desert plain at the opening of an oil refinery owned by his longtime friend, Texas oilman Ray L. Hunt.
The ceremony closed the vice president’s tour on the same theme as it had opened - the ups and downs of the international oil industry, which has suffered a bruising price slide that Bush says is jeopardizing American’s energy producers.
His warnings, implying the need for higher oil prices, triggered political criticism in the United States but were defended by President Reagan.
Bush and his wife Barbara flew in a four-engine plane Saturday from the central, capital city of Sana’a to Marib, the reputed home of the Queen of Sheba. The city sits at the edge of the legendary GreatEmpty Quarter of Arabia, thousands of miles of virtually uninhabited desolation.
It was the last leg of a trip that also included visits to the Persian Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman, focusing on oil, Arab-Israeli tensions and the threat to the region from the Iran-Iraq war.
The trip brought to 70 the number of foreign countries Bush has visited since 1981. His plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington at 10:37 p.m. Saturday.
North Yemen borders the Arab world’s only Marxist state, South Yemen, where an estimated 12,000 people were killed earlier this year in a political power struggle. Bush has called the fighting a threat to the security of North Yemen, but said Salih told him it was an internal matter for South Yemen.
Bush boarded a helicopter in Marib and rode a half-hour into the desert, where he landed in a cloud of dust kicked up by the propeller. He was greeted in a trailer camp by Col. Ali Abadallah Salih, the ruler of this impoverished country.
Dozens of soldiers clad in camouflage uniforms and carrying Russian-made AK-47 automatic rifles surrounded Bush, Salih and Hunt as they walked across the sand, touring the 10,000-barrel-a-day refinery manned by American and Yemini crews.
Soldiers also were stationed at anti-aircraft guns around the facility, and a truck carrying surface-to-air missiles was parked nearby.
Yemen Oil Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hunt Oil Co. of Dallas, made a 500-million-barrel strike less than two years ago. It was a major discovery in a country that had never before produced its own oil.
A refinery was built in modular form, shipped to the Red Sea coast and then trucked overland 250 miles to the oil field. A pipeline, expected to be completed in 1988, will carry the oil to the Red Sea for export. More refineries also are to be built.
At the desert ceremony, Bush called the refinery a product of close cooperation between the oil company and the North Yemen government. He said such cooperation ″can lead to a better life for all the people of this country in the years to come.″
Hunt, the head of one of the largest independent oil companies, flew here commercially for the ceremony but flew back to the United States on Air Force Two with Bush. The plane stopped in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, and Shannon, Ireland, for refueling.
In Shannon, Bush was interviewed for a taped appearance Sunday on NBC-TV’s ″Meet the Press.″
Bush was due back in the United States before midnight, EST, about 30 hours after he awoke Saturday in Asia.
At news conferences during the trip, Bush said low oil prices ″have caused a devastation to many people″ in the United States. He said no common ground was found with Saudi Arabia to stabilize the market.
While saying the United States wanted to be a catalyst for peace in the Middle East, he openly acknowledged differences with Arab leaders over Israel.
Bush also said the United States could not play a major role in negotiating an end to the Iran-Iraq war.