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The OPEC Scrum and What the Ministers Think

Twickenham, Stade de France and now the OPEC Secretariat. All venues for some of the greatest rugby scrums of the Twenty First Century.

I’ve just emerged, somewhat dishevelled, from the media scrum (that's the polite phrase for it) that precedes the key meeting of OPEC ministers. This time around, the spectacle of 100-plus journalists running up two flights of stairs and bursting into the conference room was akin to the Grand National at a wet and windy Aintree. There were fallers everywhere and refusals at several of the jumps.

For my part I talked with arch-hawk Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela, who told me that there was absolutely no need for a production hike today. He favors a wait-and-see policy until later in the year.

I chatted with the new Nigerian minister Odein Ajumogobia. He was more pragmatic than Ramirez, but behind closed doors it appears the Nigerians are still unsure about the need for a hike.

The Qatari minister Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah told me that OPEC was listening to the concerns of the world, but then he always was a smoothy and a very decent guy at that.

But perhaps the man who gave most away in my brief conversation with him was the Iraqi minister Dr Hussain Al-Shahristani. He revealed on record that it was, of course, the Saudis leading the call for a hike (something we all knew but had only heard previously through the grapevine). He also remained very bullish on the hopes for increased Iraqi production that has been so blighted by sabotage in the past few years.

As for Ali Naimi, the Saudi string puller, he was as laconic as ever. OPEC just wouldn’t be the same without my bi-annual questioning of him -- to no avail. He just doesn't want to talk to me. Maybe I should just give up on that one? No, not really, the sport's just too much fun.