Sat, 06 Dec 2003

Purnomo OPEC president, interim secretary-general

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Purnomo Yusgiantoro has been installed as president and interim secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

At the last minute of its ministerial meeting early Friday in Vienna, the oil cartel chose Purnomo as interim secretary-general as the organization failed to agree on one of three candidates proposed during the meeting.

"It was a surprise to me," Purnomo was quoted by Detik.Com online news portal as saying.

Purnomo said he was likely to assign one of his assistants at the ministry or the most senior official of OPEC to assist him in carrying out his tasks as secretary-general at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna.

A secretary-general, an important position in the organization, is appointed for three years and his or her mandate can be extended only once.

In principle he or she does not interfere with policy-making, which remains in the hands of the ministers, but can influence the efficiency of the cartel, which controls about one-third of the world's oil supply.

The secretary-general acts as OPEC's spokesman and organizes its day-to-day running.

As president, Purnomo will preside over all OPEC meetings throughout next year.

During the ministerial meeting, three countries -- Iran, Kuwait and Venezuela -- were fighting to assume the secretary- general position. Iran's and Kuwait's candidates were, respectively, Hadi Nejad Hosseinian and Adnan Shihab-Eldin, while Venezuela sought a second term for the current secretary-general, Alvaro Silva-Calderon.

The meeting, however, failed to reach a consensus in selecting one of the three, Purnomo said, citing an unbridgeable disagreement among OPEC's members of the Middle East as the main reason.

"A secretary-general is the most difficult to choose at OPEC. Sometimes, it takes seven years for all members to reach an agreement on the matter," he said

Purnomo, who received a doctoral degree from the University of Colorado in the U.S., is the second Indonesian to assume a top position at OPEC. The first Indonesian to make such an achievement was Soebroto, who was secretary-general from 1988 to 1994.

OPEC ministers decided on Thursday to maintain the cartel's output ceiling and to cut in early 2004 to shore up oil prices.