The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries announced on Tuesday that a delegation from Iraq would participate at the cartel's meeting in Vienna next week. The decision overcomes months of resistance among OPEC members to the idea that an occupied Iraq should have a seat at the table.
OPEC delegates and oil industry analysts said the gesture reveals that Arab and Muslim countries, while worried about the U.S.-led presence in Iraq, have reconciled themselves to the situation in part to bolster the Iraqi Governing Council's legitimacy.
The OPEC move comes in the wake of a decision by the Arab League earlier this month to invite the Iraqi foreign minister to a meeting in Cairo. Iraqi representatives will also attend meetings next month of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The Iraqi delegation to OPEC will be led by the new oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, a newcomer to the government and a relative unknown to OPEC delegates. But Iraq's lingering problems in raising production and exports will likely limit its role in the meeting, other delegates and industry experts said. The country is exporting only about 1 million barrels a day now, far short of its pre-war levels of about 2 million barrels a day, largely because of persistent sabotage to pipelines.