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Khatami sends "oil message" to Saudi crown prince

TEHRAN, Sept 21 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami sent a message on "oil questions" to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz Tuesday, amidst rumours that the two countries had cut a deal over the appointment of the next head of OPEC.

Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, director of Khatami's office, handed a "written message on oil questions" to Crown Prince Abdullah, the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, said, but gave no further details. It followed a message sent by Crown Prince Abdullah to Khatami ten days ago.

The message arrived on the eve of the ministerial meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, which is due to name a new secretary-general for the body.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have put forward candidates for the post.

On Sunday, Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zangheneh said Tehran and Riyadh had agreed on their candidates sharing the secretary general's post over the next six years.

A third candidate, Algeria's energy minister and acting OPEC president, Yousef Yousfi, dropped out of the race.

However, some officials have expressed doubts about the Iran-Saudi deal, which would have to be accepted by all OPEC members.

Iran's candidate, oil ministry official Hossein Khazempur Ardebili, made an unsuccessful bid for the position in 1996. Saudi Arabia is also putting forward an oil ministry official, Sulaiman al-Herbish, for the post.


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