OPEC Hoping for Smooth Transition

Outgoing OPEC Secretary-General Ali Rodriguez said he expected a smooth succession process when ministers discuss his replacement later this month. Rodriguez last month took up a new job at the head of PDVSA having served just 15 months of his three-year term in charge of the 11-member group. "There is a good feeling of solidarity and cooperation and I think it will be a decision without traumas or complications," Rodriguez said in an interview after a trip to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar. "The environment indicates there will be a decision in June," he added, in reference to the next OPEC meeting set for June 26.

There is speculation that President Hugo Chavez is keen to keep the job in Venezuelan hands, and that Rodriguez made the Gulf trip to lobby for a Venezuelan replacement. Rodriguez said the decision was for ministers alone to make and would not speculate about the identity of any eventual replacement. He met Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami among other officials on his trip.

Prior to Rodriguez's appointment, OPEC spent 18 months in a deadlock over the post as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran all proposed candidates. Venezuela, one of three OPEC members located outside the Gulf, is seen as a compromise for OPEC's Gulf members who have fought two regional wars in the last two decades.