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Mon 9 Apr 2007 12:22 PM

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Qatar against gas cartel idea...

... but doesn't mind talking about it, says Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah.

Qatar dislikes the idea of an OPEC-style gas cartel, but will listen to opinions of the fellow gas producers at a forum in Doha on Monday, Qatar's Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said.

Two South American proponents of the idea called for gas producers to work more closely together and said they would press ahead with plans to set up a regional cartel of their own.

Speculation that the Gas Exporting Countries Forum is seeking to form the gas equivalent of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has repeatedly been knocked down.

While even proponents of the idea have admitted the proposal is not practical for now, they reiterated their support on Sunday before the first ministerial meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum for two years.

"I hate the word cartel," Attiyah told reporters before the meeting began in Qatar's capital. Asked if the idea would be discussed at the meeting, he said: "We have an open agenda."

"We should work toward greater cooperation to stabilise the market, to give confidence to our consumers. We should send a very positive statement to our customers that we are with you, not against you," Attiyah said.

Qatar, which has the world's third largest gas reserves, would listen to the opinions of other gas producers at the meeting, he said.

"Western countries should not be nervous. This forum is not new. We've had it for some time," he added.

Other ministers said they were looking for closer cooperation among gas exporters.

"We hope to find an environment here that will allow us to coordinate politically... and to create a stable environment for consumers and producers," said Bolivian Energy Minister Carlos Villegas.

Bolivia and Venezuela are working on a cartel of South American gas exporters, Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters.

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