Incoming OPEC secretary general says group intent on stronger unity

OPEC secretary general election the first in nearly a decade

OPEC secretary general

Incoming OPEC secretary general Mohammed Barkindo will begin his three-year term in August. AFP Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei.

By Alex Lawler

VIENNA, June 2 (Reuters) – The incoming OPEC secretary-general said on Thursday that his appointment showed the oil producer group was intent on stronger unity and that he wanted to make a difference when he takes over its top post.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries failed to agree a production target at a Thursday meeting but agreed to appoint Nigeria’s Mohammed Barkindo as its secretary-general – the first new post-holder in nearly a decade.

“The fact that OPEC has decided to elect a secretary-general today after so many years of haggling is in itself a positive signal not only to the market but to the international community that OPEC is back, stronger,” Barkindo told a small group of reporters after OPEC’s meeting.

“I am determined to make a difference in this job.”

Since 2012, the organization has been looking for a replacement for the current OPEC secretary general, Libya’s Abdullah al-Badri, who was elected acting secretary-general in December until the end of July after serving full terms.

Barkindo has been a key face of the Nigerian oil industry for the past decade. He led the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation from 2009 to 2010 and served as acting secretary-general of OPEC in 2006.

OPEC has been divided on how to respond to a supply glut that has halved oil prices in the last two years, and tensions between key members Saudi Arabia and Iran have been a highlight of several previous OPEC meetings.

At the last OPEC meeting, in December 2015, the group failed to agree on a formal output target for the first time in years, prompting critics and even some insiders to question its relevance.

The secretary-general is in charge of OPEC’s Vienna headquarters, represents the group on the international stage and can play a role behind the scenes in encouraging member-countries to reach agreement.

Asked whether he was happy about how OPEC manages production policy, Barkindo said there was room for improvement.

“We can do better,” he said. “I have not yet taken over the mantle of leadership. I think in the fullness of time, we should be able to sit down and talk about this.”

He starts his three-year term on Aug. 1.

(Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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