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Thu 13 Nov 2014 11:34 AM

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Venezuela's Ramirez tours Qatar, Iran and Algeria to discuss oil

Foreign Minister met with Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi at a climate conference last week

Venezuela's Ramirez tours Qatar, Iran and Algeria to discuss oil
Venezuelan Foreign minister Rafael Ramirez. (AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuela said on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez arrived in Algeria as part of a diplomatic tour that includes Iran, Qatar and Russia to strengthen bilateral relations and discuss oil markets ahead of this month's OPEC meeting.

"Our Foreign Minister has begun a visit to OPEC and non OPEC countries for bilateral relations and to talk about the oil market," Information Minister Jacqueline Faria tweeted.

Ramirez, Venezuela's main representative at OPEC and until September both oil minister and head of state oil company PDVSA, has been a vocal proponent of an emergency meeting to tackle tumbling oil prices.

A subtle shift may be taking place within OPEC as it heads into its most important meeting in years, according to delegates with the producer group, as the discussion over whether it needs to cut output to defend oil revenues quietly intensifies.

Algeria, Iran and Qatar are members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Russia, one of the world's top oil producers, is not.

While Venezuela is a founding member of OPEC, its influence has waned in recent years as output has flagged and it has shown little willingness to join in previous production cuts.

Sliding oil prices have hit the financially strained country, which needs to service major debt payments, fund popular but costly social projects and pay arbitration claims stemming from nationalizations.

"To balance the external accounts, Venezuela needs to adjust and requires a minimum oil price closer to $85," said Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America strategy at Jefferies, in a note on Wednesday.

Brent crude was trading around $81 a barrel on Wednesday.

Ramirez's exact itinerary remained unclear. The Foreign Minister said it would provide details later.

On Wednesday, the ministry tweeted a picture of Ramirez meeting Algerian Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi.

Venezuela recently bought Algerian light crude to be used as diluent for extra heavy crudes produced at the vast Orinoco belt. The country has rushed to import diesel and gasoline after power outages hit its main refining complex this month.

Last week, Ramirez met with Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi at a climate conference on Venezuela's Margarita island, then traveled to meet with Mexico's energy minister.

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