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OPEC sets vote on next secretary general for January

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OPEC sets vote on next secretary general for January

Highlights

No decision Dec. 1 on Mohammed Barkindo's successor

Kuwait's Haitham al-Ghais the only candidate so far

Iraq may name a nominee, some hoping Barkindo can stay

OPEC plans to convene a special meeting in early January to vote on its next secretary general, after Dec. 1 talks did not reach a consensus on a successor to incumbent Mohammed Barkindo, whose tenure is set to expire in July after six years, delegates said.

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The next secretary general will be taking over as the producer group and its allies, including Russia, should be close to fully tapering their historic output cuts implemented through the pandemic, though remaining COVID-19 hotspots and the emerging omicron variant could set back the timeline.

OPEC is also facing increasing energy transition pressures, as well as tense relations with the US, whose President, Joe Biden, has blamed the organization for the recent spike in oil prices.

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The official, who can serve up to two three-year terms, is OPEC's public face to international bodies and is responsible for convening meetings, including extraordinary summits when markets are under extreme pressure. The secretary general also oversees day-to-day affairs of the secretariat in Vienna.

The position must be confirmed by a vote of the 13 member states -- a politically fraught exercise that has often exposes geopolitical rifts, with allied countries usually voting in blocs.

Delegates said the vote would come on the sidelines of the next planned OPEC+ meeting, which has not yet been set, but is likely to be in early January, when the group will be deciding on February production levels.

Kuwait's Haitham al-Ghais, its former No. 2 OPEC envoy, remains the only declared candidate so far and is backed by Saudi Arabia, which pushed for a vote to confirm him. But other countries wanted time to see if any other nominees emerge, delegates said.

Iraq has said it plans to announce a candidate, while some African countries are hoping to keep Barkindo on, even though according to OPEC rules he can not run for a third three-year term. Past secretary generals have remained in office to give ministers and delegates time to resolve impasses over a successor.

Both Ghais and Barkindo declined to comment.

"Given the fact that there is still six months time before the secretary general [takes office], and it's possible that other countries nominate candidates, we preferred to continue our examination into the matter and not rush into announcing our opinion," one delegate said.