Moscow oversees signing of ‘gas Opec’

Russia will oversee the creation of a more formal group of gas exporting states, further unsettling energy consumers worried by Moscow’s clash with Kiev over gas and by its closer ties with oil body Opec.

Russia will host a meeting of energy ministers from at least 11 gas exporting countries such as Iran, Qatar and Venezuela — members of an informal club called the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) that Moscow has sought to strengthen. Although Russia said this so-called “gas Opec” is not meant to emulate Opec’s policies in setting output quotas, tomorrow’s gathering will be closely watched by consuming nations. Russian officials said the members would agree on a charter that would make GECF a more formal organisation with a headquarters in St Petersburg, although the body would keep the same name. Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will attend the forum while President Dmitry Medvedev will host a dinner at the Kremlin tomorrow evening. The global credit crisis has heightened Russia’s dependence on revenues from oil and gas as the rouble slides and the government spends its cash pile to support the economy, so Moscow wants to increase its political clout on energy markets. Medvedev said earlier this month Russia is considering all options including joining Opec to defend its national interests, although ir offered no cuts or special deals to Opec at a meeting in Algeria last week. The forum’s country members include Algeria, Bolivia, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, UAE, Qatar, Russia, Venezuela and two observer members — Equatorial Guinea and Norway.

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