CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush yesterday pressed Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah to increase the flow of crude oil from his nation’s vast reserves, but failed during their meeting to win any short-term relief for Americans pummeled by sky-high gasoline prices.
Instead, Bush administration officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, touted long-range plans already offered by the Saudis to increase capacity and production by several million barrels per day by the end of the decade.
?I think the president has recognized in a series of steps that he’s taken over the last few years that we have not a short-term problem, but a long-term problem that needs to be addressed,? Miss Rice told reporters after the two leaders met.
Mr. Bush, in a break from tradition, did not hold a joint press conference with his guest or take questions from the press after his meeting with the prince, leaving Miss Rice and Mr. Hadley to answer questions.
Although Mr. Bush stepped out a few minutes before the de facto Saudi leader arrived, when one reporter shouted a question about his administration’s progress on reducing oil prices, he said: ?I’ll be glad to answer those questions at a later time.”
The president said before the meeting that “the crown prince understands that it is very important … to make sure that prices are reasonable.” Last week the president said he does not think the Saudis are “pumping flat out.”
Other issues — including terrorism, the prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, Syria’s role in Lebanon and democratic change in the Middle East — filled the leaders’ meeting and discussion over lunch. The parties agreed to set up a high-level committee, led by Miss Rice and the Saudi foreign minister, to deal with strategic issues.
A joint statement by the two leaders reflected continued tensions over the issue of democratic change, but did not criticize Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record.
It said: “The United States considers that nations will create institutions that reflect the history, culture and traditions of their societies; it does not seek to impose its own style of government on the government and people of Saudi Arabia.”
During yesterday’s meeting at the president’s ranch, the Saudis presented details of a plan, first released in February, to increase production capacity to 12.5 million barrels per day by 2009, up from the current 11 million.
Top Saudis also reiterated a pledge from last week that the oil-rich nation will soon increase its output, currently running at 9.5 million barrels per day.
But Adel al Jubeir, Prince Abdullah’s foreign affairs adviser, told reporters in Crawford that Saudi leaders had little to offer Mr. Bush beyond that, saying the high prices are the result of a lack of adequate refining capacity in the United States and elsewhere.
“Saudi Arabia is producing all the oil that our customers are requesting,” he said.
A longer-term plan calls for Saudi Arabia, home to 25 percent of the world’s known oil reserves and the largest supplier to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to increase production to 15 million barrels per day — an initiative expected to cost $50 billion.
But neither plan does much in the shortterm to stem high prices at U.S. pumps, at $2.24 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline, according to yesterday’s Energy Information Administration report. That is 42 cents higher than a year ago, and oil-industry analysts predict prices will continue to rise throughout the summer.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
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