- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Oil too expensive

The price of oil at about $70 a barrel is too high, but the cost is driven by broad uncertainties in the oil market, the ambassador from Saudi Arabia said yesterday.

Prince Turki al-Faisal urged the United States and other major oil- consuming nations to build more oil refiners and promote energy-conservation policies.

“Do we believe that oil today is overpriced? Yes, we do believe prices are too high,” he told the United States Energy Association. “But our oil experts, who know the industry as well as anyone, also believe the markets are being well-supplied.”

However, he also warned that oil prices could triple if the diplomatic dispute over Iran’s nuclear program spirals into a military conflict.

Prince Turki blamed the current high prices on fear in the oil market.

“It is clear that geopolitical concerns have heightened fears over energy security and put upward pressure on prices,” he said. “Some of the political concerns are far from our region, such as the poor state of U.S.-Venezuelan relations and problems in Nigeria.”

In the Middle East, oil traders are worried about the “continued violence and instability” in Iraq and “tensions between Iran and the international community,” Prince Turki said.

Even disputes that have nothing to do with oil, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also can affect the price of energy, he said.

“Thus, whatever we, as Saudis, do to build a stronger energy industry, it can only be complemented by our continued cooperation with the United States and other countries, as we work to reduce tensions and prospective conflicts in the Middle East,” Prince Turki said.

Canadian complaint

Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson is determined to get Congress to reconsider a U.S. border security measure that will require Canadians to present passports or similar documents before crossing the border.

With 37 million Canadians visiting the United States annually for business or pleasure, Mr. Wilson fears that the U.S. law could disrupt the vital trade between the two countries, which averages more than $1 billion a day.

The ambassador recently testified before a Canadian Parliament committee on his efforts to get the United States to delay the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is due to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

“Security documents are an important part of the solution [to border security],” he said. “But we would be wrong to think that documents alone will do the trick or, indeed, are the most important part of our protection.”

Mr. Wilson’s June 7 testimony came after the arrests of 17 Canadian Muslims in a suspected terrorist plot to blow up the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and attack high-profile targets in Toronto.

He said the intelligence that led to the arrests is an example of the most effective measure to fight terrorism.

The arrests “clearly demonstrate … it is more important to have a solid intelligence and policing capacity, to ensure that Canadian agencies continue to engage in extensive and productive cooperation with our allies, especially with the United States,” Mr. Wilson said.

The ambassador noted that his government recognizes U.S. concerns for border security and is appealing only for more time for Canadian and U.S. officials to establish regulations to oversee the travel initiative.

He said the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, New York Republican Rep. Peter T. King, and the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, understand Canada’s concerns.

Mr. Wilson urged the Canadian senators to understand U.S. concerns, too.

“Senators, let me tell you that the shock of 9/11 has not worn off,” he said. “Americans continue to place the highest priority on security. We, in Canada, must understand this fact or our ongoing relationship will be hampered.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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