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Opec has to decide on new secretary general, Iraqi oil chief says

The Opec has to agree on a new leader for the group by May and a committee will review the selection criteria in the next few months, the Iraqi oil minister said today.

The Opec has to agree on a new leader for the group by May and a committee will review the selection criteria in the next few months, the Iraqi oil minister said today.

"In the next few months there will be a debate over the new secretary general and we are supposed to pick a new leader by May when Opec meets," Abdul Kareem Luaiby said.

"We will also have a new selection criteria".

At its meeting earlier this month, Opec decided to keep its oil-production ceiling unchanged as expected, but failed to agree on a new leader for the group and instead extended the term of its current secretary general for one year after highly charged discussions.

Although not a decision-maker when it comes to how much oil each member produces, Opec's secretary general plays a crucial role in bringing together what is at times a fractious crowd; so he needs the backing of as many members as possible.

The choice of a permanent successor for Abdalla El Badri, a Libyan who was initially due to retire at the end of the month after six years in the job, is shaping up to be difficult. There are two candidates in the running: the former Iraqi oil minister Thamir Ghadhban and Saudi Arabia's former top Opec adviser Majid Munif.

"We are happy about the outcome but Iraq is still sticking to its candidate for the post," Mr Luaiby said Saturday.

Opec delegates have said the most significant debate at the Vienna meeting centered on the choice between rival candidates for secretary-general from Saudi Arabia, the group's largest oil producer, and Iraq, which recently became its second-largest. The two also left unresolved the question of which of them should reduce oil output if the market is oversupplied next year.

Iraq, which is exempted from OPEC's quota system, is planning to increase its crude oil production to 3.7 million barrels a day next year from current production capacity of 3.2 million barrels a day, Mr. Luaiby said.

But the country does not expect to be asked to come under the quota system before it reaches 4 million barrels per day in 2014, he said.

* Bloomberg News

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