Saudi Envoy Promised Lower Oil Price, Woodward Says
April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. has promised President George W. Bush the Saudis will reduce oil prices before this November's election to help the U.S. economy, according to Bob Woodward, author of a new book about the Iraq war.
Oil prices are ``high, and they could go down very quickly,'' Woodward said last night in an interview on CBS's ``60 Minutes.''
``That's the Saudi pledge,'' said Woodward. ``Certainly over the summer or as we get closer to the election they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly.''
In his book, titled ``Plan of Attack,'' Woodward also says that the ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was given advance information about plans to invade Iraq by Vice President Richard Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The Saudis trimmed their output by 1 million barrels a day in the first quarter, according to Bloomberg data.
Crude oil has risen 15 percent to more than $37 a barrel this year. The rise in crude has helped send gasoline prices to a record average of $1.79 a gallon in the U.S., according to the AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association.
The record gasoline prices may blunt the economic benefits of President Bush's tax cuts and become an issue in the presidential election. Democratic candidate John Kerry, 60, a four-term Democratic senator from Massachusetts, cited higher gasoline prices as one reason for a rising `misery index'' he released last week that he said shows Bush's economic policies have hurt working families.
Bandar Briefed Before Powell
Bandar learned of the attack plans on Jan. 11, 2003, two days before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was told of the decision, according to Woodward.
In a meeting on Jan. 11 with Cheney, Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bandar was shown a map laying out plans for attacking Iraq, Woodward writes in the book. The map was marked TOP SECRET NOFORN, meaning the classified material wasn't to be shown to non-U.S. officials, according to Woodward.
At the meeting Bandar asked for assurances that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wouldn't survive the war as he did the 1991 Persian Gulf War led by Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush. Cheney responded, ``Prince Bandar, once we start, Saddam is toast,'' according to Woodward.
Bandar said he would take the message to the Saudi leadership if he got the same information he had just received directly from Bush. On Jan. 13 Bandar was called to meet with Bush, who said: ``Their message is my message,'' said Woodward. Powell was told of Bush's decision the same day.
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter and the most influential member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps a third of the world's oil.
OPEC on March 31 agreed to reduce its production quotas to keep prices from dropping.
Before the March 31 meeting in Vienna at which OPEC announced it was cutting its quotas, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al- Naimi, said that the kingdom was already implementing its share of production cuts for April.
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