September 15, 2015 / 1:33 AM / 4 years ago

Venezuela's president urges OPEC to call heads of state summit

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro on Monday urged OPEC to convene a heads of state meeting, adding he would soon present proposals to shore up low oil prices that have slammed the recession-hit nation.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with government officials to talk about the situation on the border with Colombia, in Caracas, in this handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace on September 11, 2015. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters

Maduro has pushed for months for an emergency meeting and coordination with non-OPEC nations, but OPEC’s Middle East producers have pledged to maintain high output in a fight to defend market share against rising competition.

The global oil benchmark, Brent crude, has plunged from a June 2014 high above $115 a barrel to under $47 due to a global oil glut and worries about China’s economy.

During an event to mark OPEC’s 55th anniversary, Maduro reiterated calls for action within OPEC and beyond OPEC, mentioning mechanisms including controls on output and price bands.

“It is a truth like a giant cathedral that ought to be recognized by everybody: There are new actors setting the course of the oil market and it’s time for OPEC to convene a heads of state summit,” Maduro said during a televised meeting with government officials and foreign dignitaries.

His fresh calls for action come as Venezuelan oil prices, which averaged $41.08 last week, worsen a dire economic crisis that has goods ranging from cancer medication to car batteries running short, while raging inflation slams purchasing power ahead of a key parliamentary election.

However, wealthier members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in the Gulf have driven a strategy shift since last year to allow prices to fall in order to maintain their market share.

One of former President Hugo Chavez’s first acts in office was to travel to OPEC member states and invite heads of state to Caracas in 2000 for their second-ever summit. Since then, the only heads of state summit was in Saudi Arabia in 2007.

Such meetings are called through political means, so do not require the consensus of all members, unlike extraordinary meetings, a former Venezuela OPEC governor told Reuters.

But the presence of non-OPEC member Russia and OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia would be essential for the meeting to have an impact on prices, he added.

Saudi Arabia has said it sees no need to hold a heads of state summit nor interfere in the oil market.

One OPEC source said that should such a meeting produce no concrete outcome, it would have a negative impact on prices.

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker

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