Angola's Marxist-Socialist government has asked to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Vienna-based cartel that fixes world oil prices. The bid comes just months after the Luanda government signed a $360 million oil concession agreement with Texaco and renegotiated a long-standing contract with Gulf Oil.
One Gulf Oil executive said, "We have heard that they have applied for OPEC membership."
A number of international oil analysts, however, speculated that the 13-member cartel, which is dominated by pro-Western conservative states such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, probably would turn down Angola's request.
"The Saudis and their friends will probably vote against it because they don't want another radical like Algeria or Libya," one analyst said.
A number of leading exporters, including Mexico, Norway, and England, remain outside the cartel, but keep their pricing and production policy in step with OPEC.
Angola is a minor exporter, sending 200,000 barrels a day to Western Europe and the United States, a trickle compared with America's import level of more than 8 million barrels a day. For years though, major American and European oil companies have eyed drilling prospects in the Congo River basin and, in particular, off Cabinda, the northwest Angolan province where Gulf Oil operates.
However, the major obstacle to Angolan oil development has been the continual fighting in the former Portuguese colony before and after Luanda won independence in 1975.
Angola receives financial and military aid from the Soviet Union and relies on the 20,000 Cuban troops in the country for security.
More than 1,000 Cuban soldiers are involved providing security for Gulf Oil's facilties against guerrilla attack.