Iran Presses ahead with Proposed Natural Gas Cartel

A008708010.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran has presented representatives of natural gas-exporting countries with proposals aimed at turning an existing informal forum into an OPEC-like structure.

The proposals were put forward at meetings in Tehran this week involving energy officials and experts from several key gas-exporting counties, including Russia, Algeria and Qatar. The countries met under the umbrella of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), which includes no formal membership and was launched in Tehran in 2001.

About 15 gas-producing nations, collectively controlling almost three-quarters of the world’s gas reserves and about 40 percent of gas production, have taken part in GECF meetings since then.

Iranian officials said the suggestions for a more formal structure would be discussed when the GECF holds an annual ministerial meeting in Moscow in June.

A draft charter for the envisaged gas body presented this week was drawn up along the lines of OPEC regulations.

The head of the Iranian delegation to the talks, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili – who is also Iran’s OPEC governor – said the proposals included the establishment of a secretariat. OPEC has been headquartered in Vienna since 1965.

Both the United State and the European Union in the past have voiced opposition to the idea of a gas exporters’ cartel that could manipulate or fix prices, and threaten security of supplies.

Tehran dismissed objections to the plan as politically motivated.

Deputy Oil Minister Ali Kordan, in an interview with Iran’s Petroenergy Information Network, linked to the Ministry of Petroleum Web site, said US opposition was “political” in nature.

Iran did not plan to use its economic resources as a weapon against mankind but to help the world, he said.

Unlike the EU, which already gets between one-quarter and half of its gas from Russia (with Algeria and Norway its other major suppliers), the US is currently largely self-sufficient, but its gas usage is expected to grow significantly in the near future, with imports projected to rapidly increase.

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