The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries today condemned the American bombing raid on Libya but did not consider Tripoli's demand for an oil embargo against the United States.
Oil ministers from the 13-nation grouping, who resumed talks here on shoring up depressed oil prices, decided by majority vote to denounce "attacks perpetrated by the United States against an OPEC member." The condemnation, couched in relatively mild language, still failed to win the endorsement of four oil ministers who cited the need to consult their governments.
The OPEC statement "expressed deep concern for acts against international law" and "extended condolences to the Libyan people for the human losses incurred."
Libya's oil minister, Fawzi Shakshuki, insisting that Arab and Islamic countries needed to "fight back" together against the United States, urged OPEC members to cut off all oil supplies to the United States and any European ally that collaborated in the air strike.
But OPEC delegates said the Libyan request for an embargo did not elicit support from other countries, many of which are desperately competing to find or keep oil customers. Iran proposed the statement of condemnation, which was eventually approved by nine states while Ecuador, Venezuela, Gabon, and Indonesia abstained, according to delegates.
The brisk rejection of the Libyan embargo proposal, according to several delegates, stemmed from widespread antipathy to Muammar Qaddafi's regime as well as the realization that unlike the 1970s, OPEC no longer controls the world oil market.
The 1973 Arab oil embargo, undertaken to force the West to exert pressure on Israel's advances in the October war that year, occurred at a time when OPEC's domination over existing global oil supplies was at its peak. But the increasing input of non-OPEC producers since has left OPEC in control of barely one-third of the world oil market.
Last December, Saudi Arabia's determination to recapture a greater market share by pumping more oil led to a price war that has slashed the cost of oil by more than half, to about $13 a barrel.
In March, OPEC ministers held an emergency meeting in hopes of setting new production quotas under an overall ceiling that would soak up the glut and drive prices back up. But the ministers adjourned after nine fruitless days and decided to resume their efforts here this week.
Arturo Hernandez Grisanti of Venezuela, chairman of the conference, said that the ministers would pick up their normal agenda Wednesday after today's two-hour session largely devoted to a debate on how to respond to the American attack on Libya.
The OPEC chairman stressed that in its formal discussions "the conference did not consider an embargo" but was primarily concerned with drafting a statement criticizing the American raid that would be acceptable to the broadest possible consensus.
Before the meeting, Libya's Shakshuki said that the American bombing runs on Tripoli and Benghazi in the pre-dawn hours today prove "what Libya always said -- that the leader of terrorism is America."
He charged that the raids conducted by F111 bombers based in Britain killed many civilians and exposed a kind of "terrorism not of people but of a state."
"We will fight back," Shakshuki told reporters. "We will fight not only for Libya but for all Arab and Islamic countries." He added that Libya has asked for an embargo "in the past and we will do so again."