The 40th conference of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ended with a whimper of unity - to wrest virtue from necessity as the divided caretel collectively froze oil prices for what very likely[WORDS ILLEGIBLE]of 1978.

Hours after Wednesday's final session, Saudi Arabian and Iranian oil ministers climbed into waiting helicopters that would take them to flights home. Their demands for a freeze had prevailed.

Left behind were the Iraqi, Algerian, Indonesian and Nigerian oil ministers who joined Venezuela's President Carlos Andres Perez that evening to share defeat at an elegant state dinner at La Casona, Venezuela's White House. Their efforts to win a price rise had failed.

Following the dinner the presidential party walked out to a sprawling patio decorated with poinsettias for the evening's entertainment. The program, broadcast over government television, began with the premier showing of a Ministry of Information film. As the first frames flashed on the screen the projector sputtered to a stop. The audience shifted nervousy. Nothing, it seemed, had gone well for the Venezuelans, who counted on a price boost, especially with national elections coming up next year.

In the meantime, President Carter released a statement in Washington saying the United States would intervene to prop up the sagging dollar, putting a good face on the Saudi's answers to demands for a price freeze based on the dollar's decline.

(Later, however, a Treasury Department official would say "there is no way" to describe under what considtions the United States would act to support the dollar).

Washington and the Saudi-Iranian-dominated oil cartel were in a curious lock-step as the OPEC meeting came tto a wooden end.