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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Official: OPEC accepts Ecuador as member

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has accepted Ecuador back as an active member, Energy Minister Galo Chiriboga said Tuesday.

OPEC sent a letter to Ecuadorean authorities dated Oct. 23, two weeks after the Andean country officially asked to regain its active membership status, Chiriboga told The Associated Press. Ecuador stopped paying OPEC dues in 1992, although it never formally quit the organization.

Chiriboga said Ecuador and OPEC agreed on a three-year payment plan for the dues "according to the state's financial possibilities." The South American country owes the cartel about US$5.7 million (euro4 million).

OPEC countries' heads of state meet Nov. 17 in Saudi Arabia, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has said he wants to take part.

Ecuador is a marginal oil producer, with 507,000 barrels a day in private and state production.

Alejandro Fuentes, a deputy minister at the Mines and Energy Ministry, said Chiriboga and others will travel to OPEC headquarters in Vienna to make sure all legal requirements for resuming active membership are met.

The Correa administration has said several times it wants to rejoin OPEC for strategic reasons, ranging from technology support to access to loans from other member countries.

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