Thompson criticizes appeal to Saudis

WASHINGTON Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:08pm EST

Republican presidential candidate, former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN), speaks during the Republican Party of Florida and Univision Spanish channel debate at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida December 9, 2007. Appealing to Saudi Arabia to encourage higher oil production to help lower prices is not in the long-term interest of the United States, Thompson said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Republican presidential candidate, former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN), speaks during the Republican Party of Florida and Univision Spanish channel debate at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida December 9, 2007. Appealing to Saudi Arabia to encourage higher oil production to help lower prices is not in the long-term interest of the United States, Thompson said on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Appealing to Saudi Arabia to encourage higher oil production to help lower prices is not in the long-term interest of the United States, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson said on Wednesday.

The White House said President George W. Bush hopes that as a result of his talks this week with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, OPEC would be encouraged to increase production to help alleviate high oil prices, which have touched $100 a barrel.

Appearing on CNN, Thompson was asked whether, as president, he would turn to Saudi Arabia for help as Bush did.

Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, said the problem was a "little bigger" than Saudi Arabia.

"It's not in the United States' long-term interest to go hat in hand begging people to do things that in the end we know they're not going to do," Thompson said.

"What we need to concentrate on is diversifying our own energy sources here in this country and opening up what oil reserves that we have here ... using nuclear more, using clean coal technology more and all the other things that we can do," Thompson said.

Thompson has finished well behind front-runners Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Mitt Romney in the state contests used to choose a Republican nominee for the November 2008 presidential election.

Saudi Arabia is the world's top oil exporter and OPEC's most influential member.

OPEC, which meets in two weeks to set policy, gave a guarded response to Bush's call to raise production.

"I'm sure the ministers of the conference will not be hesitant to increase production if fundamentals justify that," OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri said in Nicosia.

(Writing by Joanne Allen)

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