* OPEC secretary general post comes up in 2013
* Saudi, Iran, Iraq, Ecuador compete for the job
* Four candidates nominated, panel may convene in Oct
* Group has struggled to agree in the past
By Alex Lawler and Amena Bakr
LONDON/DUBAI, Aug 16 OPEC has delayed a meeting
of officials to help select its new secretary general, delegates
from the oil producers' group said, putting off delicate talks
that could reignite rivalry for influence as Saudi Arabia, Iran
and Iraq seek the top post.
A panel of officials was initially planned to convene at the
Vienna headquarters of the Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries during August, but the meeting is now more
likely to take place in October, officials said.
OPEC has often struggled to agree on a secretary general and
the task of appointing a successor to the outgoing Abdullah
al-Badri comes as Western sanctions on Iran have heightened
political tensions within the 12-member group.
Without a decision on the post before December, OPEC could
start 2013 without a permanent figurehead, potentially adding to
its difficulties in managing the oil market should predictions
of a slowdown in global oil demand prove to be correct.
Four of OPEC's 12 members have put forward potential
successors to Badri, a Libyan whose term finishes at the end of
The panel, consisting mainly of OPEC governors - oil
officials who represent their countries on the group's board of
governors - will review the candidates and consider how the
organization should proceed, officials said.
"There are some options to have a meeting but we have not
agreed yet," an OPEC delegate, who like other officials declined
to be identified, said. "It was in August but then changed to
October. It has not been finalised."
Several delegates said the August talks were delayed because
of difficulty in fixing the meeting around participants'
schedules. But one said the group was reluctant to tackle the
succession at present.
"OPEC doesn't want to deal with this delicate issue at this
time and would rather delay it," the delegate said.
Any decision on Badri's successor will be made by OPEC's oil
ministers, who are next scheduled to meet in December.
The secretary general is the main representative on the
world stage of the producer group, helps formulate its output
policy and is in charge of OPEC's Vienna secretariat.
Saudi Arabia nominated its OPEC governor, Majid Al-Moneef,
for the role, officials said in January. It was followed by
Iraq, which proposed Thamir Ghadhban, energy adviser to Iraq's
prime minister. Iran nominated a former oil minister, Gholam
Hossein Nozari, and Ecuador also put a candidate forward.
The talks arise as Western sanctions on Iran over Tehran's
nuclear work have led to a drop in Iranian output and heightened
political tensions. Iran has criticised Saudi Arabia and its
Gulf Arab allies for pumping more oil to keep a lid on prices.
OPEC did not select a replacement for Badri when its oil
ministers last met, in June, and inter-Gulf political rivalry
hampered a deal last time the post was up for grabs.
Badri's appointment, starting in 2007, ended a three-year
impasse over the job, during which OPEC rotated the secretary
general post around member countries for short terms of one
The post has tended to go to officials from smaller OPEC
producers to spread influence beyond top producer Saudi Arabia
and Iran, OPEC's traditional No. 2 whose output has now been
overtaken by Iraq as sanctions curb Iran's oil sales.
OPEC officials have also raised the possibility of Badri
being asked to remain in the post beyond the end of his term if
a successor cannot be chosen. That would mean OPEC waiving its
own rule that the secretary general serve no more than two