Energy ministers from Iran and Qatar denied that the world's largest natural gas exporting countries, who held talks here on Monday, intend to band together as a cartel.
Discussions at the 16-member Gas Producing Countries Forum focused on deepening cooperation between gas producing countries with an aim to create a stable world market for the fuel, Iran's Minister of Petroleum Seyed Hamaneh and his Qatari counterpart Abdullah al-Attiyah said.
"I hate the name cartel. We are not a cartel," al-Attiyah told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting's opening ceremony. "We're just here to consider our interests."
Hamaneh added that "there is no discussion in this meeting about a cartel. The cartel is not an issue. We're here to exchange views on technical issues and on the markets."
The Doha meeting - and speculation that leaders here would create a gas cartel - has alarmed leaders in Europe and America. European Union leaders have already discussed potential responses aimed at opposing the emergence of a producer's group that would coordinate output and control prices.
Al-Attiyah said this was unfortunate. Gas importing countries should discuss these issues with the exporter's group, rather than protesting the two-day meeting in Doha and talking about imposing new taxes and regulations.
"The West is reacting negatively," al-Attiyah said. "They should sit with us and discuss this with us before imposing any regulations on us or any new taxes. We should create confidence between producers and consumers and send a positive message and not blame each other."
After a short public opening ceremony, the gas producer's meeting went into closed session. On Tuesday, the gathering is expected to tour Qatar's sprawling natural gas export and liquefaction plants.
The Gas Exporting Countries Forum brings together countries controlling over 70 percent of world gas reserves, including Algeria, Brunei, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Norway, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia and Turkmenistan.
Many experts say a gas cartel that resembles the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries group would be tough to achieve, since most gas is sold under tight contracts that allow buyers to lock in prices for up to 25 years.
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