HOW HE SEES IT We're not the bad guys

In reaction to recent rises in oil prices, Saudi Arabia has once again committed to increasing oil production. Specifically, Saudi Arabia has assured world oil markets that it is willing to increase production -- and is capable of doing so -- by an extra 1.3 million barrels a day to meet real oil demand. This is a capability that no other oil-producing country can match.
Unfortunately, some politicians and media commentators have attempted to score political points by misrepresenting both the specifics of Saudi Arabia's proposal and the nature of its intent. Some have even cynically attempted to revive the discredited canard about a supposed "secret deal" between Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration intended to boost President Bush's re-election prospects.
Believe me, nothing could be further from the truth, as even a casual study of Saudi Arabia's historical role in stabilizing oil prices would confirm. No country understands the negative effects of high oil prices better than Saudi Arabia. That is because Saudi Arabia not only is part of the global economy but is particularly vulnerable to economic repercussions stemming from ruinous and high oil prices.
To put it very simply, anything that depresses the economic viability of our customers rebounds doubly on Saudi Arabia. Think about it. Saudi Arabia profits by meeting customers' demands, not by frustrating them.
And meeting world oil demand is precisely what is behind Saudi Arabia's proposal to increase current production. There is no "secret plan" to help the Bush administration, any more than there were "secret plans" to boost the political prospects of previous U.S. presidential administrations -- including those of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
Saudi Arabia has, without regard to politics, consistently sought to ensure stable oil prices for the United States and the world as a simple matter of good business, abiding friendship and national self-interest. I can attest to this because I was personally involved in the negotiations with each administration.
Damned if you do ...
However, as an observer of U.S. politics for more than 20 years, I fully understand the old American saying: "Damned if you do and damned if you don't." If Saudi Arabia stayed on the sidelines and did nothing to try to reduce oil prices, we would be criticized for hurting the U.S. and global economies. But when we take proactive steps to help customers -- as we are doing now -- we are accused in some quarters of playing politics.
Let me be unequivocal in stating that Saudi Arabia has always stood by America and the world when our intervention was required to stabilize oil prices. Crown Prince Abdullah remains committed to one important goal: meeting our responsibilities as the world's leading energy supplier to ensure that our customers, particularly our American friends, have the oil supplies they need to maintain strong national and global economies. In this, Saudi Arabia is consistent.
X The writer is Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

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