Lebanon hosts Opec meeting

BEIRUT - Non-Opec member Lebanon, a business and tourism hub in a region engulfed with violence, is due to host a crucial Opec conference meant to help lower soaring world oil prices.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 2 Jun 2004, 9:55 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:00 PM

As Arab countries braced for further terror attacks following last weekend's deadly hostage drama blamed in Saudi Arabia, Beirut in contrast seemed laid-back ahead of tomorow's Opec ministerial meeting.

"Security measures have been taken as for any important meeting," a Lebanese official told AFP, adding that the sea-front Phoenicia hotel would be off-limits for anybody without a special pass.

The Arab newspaper Al Hayat reported that Kuwaiti Energy Minister Shaikh Ahmed Al Fahd Al Ahmed Sabah planned to tighten his personal security measures during his time in the Lebanese capital.

The Beirut gathering will mark the first time in the history of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries that its ministers meet in a non-Opec member state.

The decision to hold the conference here was taken in September by Qatari Energy Minister Abdallah bin Hamad Al Attiya who at the time was still the head of the 11-member group.

Attiya is an old friend of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who had offered to host the event, a senior Lebanese official told AFP.

Hariri is the main force behind the ambitious rebuilding process in Lebanon following the devastating 1975-1990 civil war and plans to turn the country into a business and tourism leader in the Middle East.

"It is a unique event because Lebanon has a special place (in the hearts) of Opec member states," Attiya said on his arrival in Beirut yesterday.

"We think that Lebanon is the only country to have succeeded in its rebuilding process in a very short period," he said.

"By accepting Lebanon's invitation, we are contributing to the reconstruction of this noble country," said Omar Ibrahim, the head of Opec's information department. Beirut maintains strong ties with Gulf Arab countries who have been investing generously in Lebanon, a major reason for the country's surplus in its balance of payments that stood at $3.4 billion in 2003.

With its sea and mountain resorts, Lebanon has regained its pre-war standing as a favourite destination for Arabs who have been avoiding western countries because of the strong euro and perceived harassment since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

The ministers attending the Opec conference have been invited to dinner by Hariri in his headquarters, the Grand Serail, which overlooks Beirut's renovated downtown area.

The meeting will also be attended by representatives of non-Opec members Oman, Egypt, Angola and Syria, which is the main power broker in Lebanon and produces about half a million barrels of oil per day. On Friday, the energy ministers were expected to take a day-long trip to Damascus upon the invitation of their Syrian counterpart. This comes three weeks after the US imposed economic sanctions on Syria for allegedly sponsoring terrorism.

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