Bush Prods Saudi Arabia on High Oil Prices
By STEVEN LEE MYERS
Published: January 16, 2008
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Bush on Tuesday urged the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to take into account the cost high oil prices were having on the American economy, gingerly touching on an issue that has begun to dominate the presidential election campaign.
Speaking to a group of Saudi entrepreneurs here, Mr. Bush said that he would speak to the Saudi leader, King Abdullah, about the price of oil, which he said was “tough on our economy.”
Mr. Bush meet with King Abdullah on Monday to discuss a range of issues, focused mostly on Iraq, Iran and the prospect of a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.
At a second meeting Tuesday evening at the king’s ranch outside of Riyadh, he said he would talk “about the fact that oil prices are very high, which is tough on our economy, and that I would hope, as OPEC considers different production levels, that they understand that if their — one of their biggest consumers’ economy suffers, it will mean less purchases, less oil and gas sold.”
Mr. Bush, nearing the end of an eight-day trip to the Middle East, has not generally been inclined to weigh in directly on economic matters, but with rising energy costs taking a toll, the price of oil has come up in meetings with the leaders of several Persian Gulf states, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and now Saudi Arabia.
The response has been muted, according to the presidential counselor, Ed Gillespie. “They talked about the nature of the market and the vast demand that’s on the world market today for oil,” he said on Monday night, referring to the leaders Mr. Bush met. “That was a point that was obviously made in the course of these conversations by our friends, and that’s a legitimate and accurate point.”
Mr. Bush last met King Abdullah in Crawford, Tex., in April 2005, before the king’s father died and he assumed the Saudi throne. At the time, concern about rising oil prices prompted the Bush administration to prod Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer, to raise production to ease prices. At the time, oil was selling for $54 a barrel. It is now hovering at $94 a barrel.