(AP) The high price of gasoline is expected to dominate talks between President Bush and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah.
The president is welcoming him to his ranch in Texas on Monday.
Bush says he’ll make clear that it’s not in Saudi Arabia’s interests to keep oil prices high. He also says he’s looking for “a straight answer” to how close the Saudis are to reaching production capacity.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi promised last week to increase production capacity to 12.5 million barrels per day by 2009 from the current 11 million limit and, if necessary, eventually develop a capacity of 15 million barrels per day.
The kingdom now pumps about 9.5 million barrels daily.
Robert Jordan, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said the best-case scenario for Bush would to be secure a commitment from Abdullah to explore additional oil fields and invest in additional production capacity.
The United States could offer to help by providing technical expertise or helping to build storage facilities for reserves, he said.
The two leaders won’t be taking questions afterwards. They haven’t scheduled a news conference as the prince rarely talks with reporters.
The meeting also marks another step in a quickening pace of U.S. involvement in the Mideast. Two weeks ago Bush met at the ranch with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and said Israel should abandon plans for new construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. The Saudis believe the administration’s strong support for Israel harms prospects for Middle East peace.
Despite the difficult matters, said the stage is set for a much friendlier meeting Monday than three years ago when Abdullah first visited the ranch.
For one thing, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a polarizing figure, is now gone — replaced by an elected president of the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas will have his own meeting with Bush in the next few weeks.
To lay the groundwork for Monday’s meeting, Vice President Dick Cheney talked with Abdullah over lunch Sunday in a Dallas hotel.