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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 18:02 GMT
Opec baulks at oil price rise
Alvaro Silva, secretary-general of Opec
Alvaro Silva: "What can we do more?"
The head of the oil cartel, Opec, has told delegates at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos that he is powerless to forestall the climb in the oil price.

During the past week, the price of oil has hit a two-year high in response to jitters over the prospect of war in Iraq and a general strike in Venezuela.

"What can we do more? I do not agree there is a lack of oil. The problem of the price is the threat of war," said Alvaro Silva, secretary-general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Time is not on North Korea's side

Chung Dong-Young
Envoy for South Korean president-elect
So far the gathering in the exclusive Swiss resort of Davos has been dominated by talk of war and gloomy forecasts about the global economy.

Friday's debates focused on prospects for the sluggish US economy, the enlargement of the European Union and Japan's struggle to return to health.

US Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans told delegates war with Iraq would not damage the American economy.

"In the context of a $10 trillion economy, we expect the economy to continue... to be resilient and flexible and deal with the input of war," Mr Evans told a packed session on US economic prospects.

There were also sessions on the boom in China and poor growth forecasts for the African continent.

Delegates at Davos were also told that South Korea planned to send a special envoy to its communist neighbour, North Korea, to discuss the region's nuclear tensions.

Meanwhile, US Attorney General John Ashcroft called for greater international cooperation on counter-terrorism measures.

Oil blow

Mr Alvaro's comments crushed hopes that Opec would mandate the pumping of more crude oil should the US start a military campaign in the Middle East.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft
Ashcroft: Washington has switched terror tactics
Mr Silva said Opec producers, which agreed to a production increase earlier in January, were doing their best to bring crude below $28 a barrel, which is at the top end of the group's targeted price range.

Increasing international tension and a general strike cutting exports from Opec member Venezuela have led to high oil prices, with US crude trading at $32.32 on Friday.

Most Opec members are already pumping oil at full capacity, with only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates believed to be able to raise production further.

Nuclear fears

An envoy for South Korean president-elect Roh Moo-Hyun told the WEF on Friday that time was running out for North Korea to resolve the dispute about its nuclear programme.

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"North Korea must face up to the reality that if it continues to threaten peace, the international community will not simply turn a blind eye," said Chung Dong-Young, co-chairman of the president-elect's Millennium Democratic party.

"Time is not on North Korea's side."

He added North Korea could benefit if it agreed to give up its nuclear programme because Seoul was considering a "bold" reconstruction plan for its isolated neighbour.

In another session, US Attorney General Ashcroft told delegates that the White House had switched tactics following the September 11 attacks.

During a discussion on the impact of counter-terrorism strategies, he said Washington was more concerned with tackling future threats than investigating who was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

"We have shifted our priority from prosecution to prevention," he told world and business leaders, adding that 90 countries were cooperating with the US in the effort.

German optimism

Separately, on the sidelines of the WEF conference, Germany's deputy finance team told delegates that the strong euro was not hurting manufacturing.

Suddenly Japanese football is competitive

Nobuyuki Idei
chairman of Sony
"So far I do not see a problem, but obviously we have to remain vigilant on further moves," said Caio Koch-Weser.

A rise in the euro could conceivably make it more expensive for German manufacturers to sell their products abroad.

Gerassimos Thomas, a spokesman for the European Commission, added: "The euro has been for a long time undervalued.

"Over the last six months we are seeing a correction by which the euro is more aligned with the fundamentals of the euro area economy."

Conference colour

Eyewitness accounts


See also:

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