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Saudi, Iran Stay on Course for Scrap Over OPEC Job

DUBAI, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Oil giants Saudi Arabia and Iran remain on course for a showdown later this month when OPEC ministers meet in Vienna to decide who will assume the group's top job as secretary-general.

OPEC delegates said on Thursday there was no sign that either side would step down to allow the other's candidate a clear run for the job. Any decision to replace Nigeria's Rilwanu Lukman must be approved by all 11 OPEC member states.

Iran has put forward its OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, as a candidate. Saudi Arabia, Iran's traditional rival in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has nominated its OPEC governor, Sulaiman al-Herbish.

"Saudi Arabia is determined to take this position. We believe that we will get it and our candidate is the right man," a Saudi source said.

"Putting a Saudi in the position shows the world there is a strong commitment to stabilising the oil market. Our candidate has already gained a lot of support," said the source. "We expect all OPEC states to support us."

An OPEC delegate said the issue could not be resolved simply by arranging a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"This is not an issue about a compromise between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There are 11 countries involved," he said.

A senior Iranian oil official said on Tuesday that Iran will not lend its support to any other country competing for the secretary-general post.

Technically, the secretary-general should be apolitical and not push the interests of his country. But by placing a candidate in the job, a member state can gain clout.

Iran and Saudi Arabia worked together to help secure global production cuts in March to boost flagging oil prices after resolving a long dispute over output quotas.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has said that Algerian Energy and Mining Minister Youssef Yousfi could make a good OPEC secretary-general.

OPEC delegates believe Algiers would not officially nominate Yousfi as a candidate unless Saudi Arabia and Iran were unable to resolve the matter -- leaving Yousfi a clear run for the job.

Some delegates said the cartel might decide at its September 22 conference to postpone a decision on the post for a further six months leaving Lukman, already mostly occupied as Nigeria's special energy advisor, to caretake.


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