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OPEC: One Day United, Next Day Divided

June 16, 1994

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ A day after OPEC united to keep oil production steady and crude prices up, a rift erupted Thursday over selecting a new leader of the cartel.

In an unusual public rebuke, Venezuela complained that Iran was the only member to vote against its candidate, effectively vetoing his election.

The outcry occurred after the ministers failed to name a replacement for Subroto, the former Indonesian oil minister who has been secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries since July 1988. His term expires June 30. The secretary-general directs the group’s daily activities and serves as its spokesman at international conferences.

Venezuela nominated its former oil minister, Alirio Parra, for the coveted post, and Iran put forward Hussein Kazempoor Ardebili, Tehran’s ambassador to Japan and a former oil ministry official.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Erwin Jose Arrieta said Parra had the support of 11 out of the 12 member countries. Iran refused to back him.

Since OPEC rules require a unanimous vote, Parra was kept out of the job.

As a temporary solution, the ministers decided to let their rotating president, Libyan Oil Minister Abdalla Salem el-Badri, serve as acting secretary-general until the end of the year.

″It was a stalemate,″ said Alhaji Umaru Baba, Nigeria’s minister of state for petroleum resources. ″This decision will give breathing space for tempers to cool down.″

Arrieta called for a change in the group’s rules so that a nominee could win by majority vote. And he said Parra would be nominated again at the group’s next meeting in November.

Iran, for its part, wasn’t saying much. Oil Minister Gholamreza Aqazadeh said that ″we have six months″ before the issue comes up again.

If irritated about the fumble over the secretary-general, the ministers were buoyant about the prospect for higher crude prices after agreeing Wednesday to leave oil pumping untouched for the rest of the year

Update hourly