Saddam urges Arabs to cut oil exports

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The Independent Online

The Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, called on Arab oil producers yesterday to stop sales to the United States and Israel and cut their exports to other countries by half.

President Saddam spoke in a national television address less than a month after he announced he was cutting off Iraq's oil exports for 30 days or until Israel withdrew from Palestinian territories. The announcement led to an immediate increase in oil prices. Other Arab states refused to follow his lead, and they were unlikely to heed yesterday's call.

The President said Arabs should "immediately decrease the production of their oil for export by 50 per cent and ... deprive the US and Zionist entity of the other exported half".

He urged non-Arab Muslim oil exporting countries, as well as Opec, to take similar measures. President Saddam scoffed at Arabs who had criticised his earlier call by saying "oil is not a tank or a plane to be used as a weapon". He was referring to Saudi Arabia, without whom a boycott would not work.

"If oil is not a weapon while we have it, what else can we use to face the ambitious powers?" the President said. "We should use oil as a companion weapon and not as an alternative to other weapons."

He suggested allocating more oil to countries that support "Arab rights" and less to those that "adopt negative stands against us". The last time oil-producing Arab nations used oil as a political weapon was in 1973, when reduced exports caused a global energy crisis.

Since then, the world's wealthiest nations have created the International Energy Agency to provide a cushion against any similar disruption. In November 2000, Saudi Arabia led the adoption of a pledge by Opec and other big exporters that oil would not be used as a political weapon.

President Saddam called on Arab workers at ports, airports and rail depots to refuse to handle tankers, vessels and planes carrying oil and goods to "hostile countries".

Although oil prices rose briefly when the Iraqi President announced earlier this month that he was cutting his oil exports in solidarity with the Palestinians, the market calmed soon afterwards when the move was seen to be unilateral.