VP Cheney Meets with Saudi Leader in Dallas
Reuters | April 24, 2005
By Chris Baltimore and Tom Doggett
DALLAS - Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah met on Sunday with Vice President Dick Cheney , one day before the kingdom's leader was scheduled to talk with President Bush about record high oil prices and other issues.
The Sunday meeting took place at a luxury hotel in Dallas, where the Saudi delegation is staying through Tuesday, according to Saudi sources.
The White House declined to comment on Cheney's meeting with the crown prince. Saudi officials were also unwilling to say what the men discussed.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi was part of the delegation and was expected to attend the crown prince's meeting with Bush at his Texas ranch on Monday afternoon. Naimi declined to answer reporters' questions on Sunday.
On Sunday evening, Abdullah was scheduled to have dinner with the president's father, former President Bush, in Dallas.
Cheney was the main architect of Bush's energy plan three years ago, which the president has sought to push through Congress. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a wide-ranging, $8 billion bill to encourage more domestic production of oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy. The Senate has yet to act.
Record high crude oil and retail gasoline prices this month were expected to figure prominently in the Bush administration's Saudi meetings.
The White House is facing growing consumer unease about oil prices that are sapping motorists' budgets, adding to the U.S. trade imbalance, and fanning fears of inflation. Retail gasoline prices hit a record nationwide average of $2.28 per gallon earlier this month.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil producer within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has struggled to keep world oil markets balanced as China and India consume growing amounts of energy.
Industry sources have said Saudi Arabia will boost supplies to major international oil companies and some Asian customers by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) next month, putting it near production of 10 million bpd for the first time since 1980.
Last week, Naimi told an oil conference that Saudi Arabia would try to keep a spare supply capacity of at least 1.5 million bpd. The kingdom will increase its capacity to 12.5 million bpd by early 2009, and could boost it to 15 million bpd if needed, he said.
President Bush recently told CNBC he planned to ask the Saudi crown prince for a clear answer about the size of the kingdom's spare oil production capacity.
In early April, U.S. crude oil futures briefly topped $58 a barrel. On Friday, crude futures closed above $55 a barrel.
While in Dallas, Cheney also met separately on Sunday with the son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an administration official said.
The Saudi delegation was scheduled to leave Dallas on Tuesday evening following a U.S.-Saudi Business Council dinner honoring the crown prince.