Rodriguez Close to Accepting PDVSA Offer

Ali Rodriguez, secretary-general of OPEC is close to accepting an offer to head PDVSA, a cartel source said. Mr. Rodriguez has spent the week in Caracas, Venezuela, contemplating Chavez's invitation to take the top job at PDVSA. Rodriguez had served earlier as energy minister under Chavez, and an OPEC source said there was a 70 percent likelihood that he would accept the president's offer.

As boss at OPEC, Rodriguez shared Chavez's interest in trying to keep oil prices high by sharply limiting crude production by the group's 11 member countries. Rodriguez was expected to return this weekend to Vienna, Austria and consult with the group's oil ministers before announcing his decision.

The OPEC source, who declined to be identified, said Rodriguez was feeling intense pressure, as a Venezuelan and a Chavez loyalist, to accept. If he does, OPEC may struggle to replace him. All 11 OPEC members must agree on the choice of secretary-general. The group official next in line to succeed Rodriguez is the head of OPEC's research division, Adnan Shihab-Eldin, a Kuwaiti whose candidacy would almost certainly be blocked by Iraq. The next most likely candidate would be Saudi Arabia's governor to OPEC, Suleiman al-Herbish, the source said. OPEC's board of governors runs the group's administrative affairs, and al-Herbish is effectively a deputy to the powerful Saudi oil minister, Ali Naimi. Al-Herbish has worked for 40 years in the Saudi oil ministry and holds a master's degree in economics from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He was a leading candidate for the secretary-general's job in 2000, until Iraq fielded its own candidate and the contest erupted into a diplomatic spat. Rodriguez came forward as a compromise candidate at that time, and took office last January.