Page last updated at 08:52 GMT, Saturday, 22 March 2008

Cheney in oil talks with Saudis

Dick Cheney (l) and King Abdullah in Riyadh (21 March 2008)
The US government wants Saudi Arabia to increase oil production

US Vice-President Dick Cheney has met Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to discuss ways of stabilising the oil market.

US officials said there was "a lot of commonality" in the talks in Riyadh on the way to move forward in the global energy market.

Oil prices have risen about 16% this year, but the oil producers' cartel, Opec, has declined to raise output.

On Thursday, Mr Cheney held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, urging greater Nato commitment.

Mr Cheney's Middle East tour also took him to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, five years after the US-led invasion.

He will also visit Israel, the West Bank and Turkey before returning to Washington.

Market volatility

In meetings that also included Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, US officials said there was a "very thorough" discussion of short, medium and long-term goals for the oil market.

"There was I think a lot of commonality in their assessment about the structural problems confronted by the global energy market now and some discussion of probably the way forward," a senior US official said.

King Abdullah had earlier welcomed Mr Cheney to his al-Jenadriya horse farm.

"Mr vice-president, we've been friends a long time," the king said.

Oil prices have risen in recent weeks to record highs above $100 as investors have purchased commodities as the value of the dollar has fallen.

Mr Cheney's national security adviser John Hannah said before the talks that they would build on the discussions begun by President George W Bush on his visit to Saudi Arabia in January, when he called on Opec to increase oil exports and warned high energy prices were hurting US consumers.

At the time, Mr Naimi insisted the kingdom would boost production only if the market justified it.

Mr Bush said he hoped King Abdullah would "listen very carefully" to US concerns, while White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president hoped to "see an increase in production".

Other issues on the agenda of the meetings in Saudi Arabia included concerns about the potential nuclear threat posed by Iran to the region, military and political progress in Iraq, as well as Syria and Lebanon, US officials said.

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