RIYADH (Agencies) Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah warned Saturday that stoking sectarian differences could threaten the kingdom’s unity and security.
“The stirring up of sectarian conflicts … and the superiority of one part of the society over another contradict Islam, and pose a threat to national unity and to the security of society and state,” King Abdullah told the opening session of the kingdom’s Shura (consultative) council.
“The challenge that faces us is to protect this national unity and to strengthen it,” he told the all-male members of the appointed council.
The king’s remarks appeared to be alluding to the relation between the kingdom’s dominant Sunnis and the Shiite minority, with sectarian tension also rising in Saudi’s neighbors Iraq and Lebanon.
King Abdullah vowed to continue the kingdom’s efforts to diffuse regional tension between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
Saudi Arabia also wants to increase its oil production so it can meet domestic and international demand while ensuring “fair” world prices, King Abdullah said on Saturday.
Now pumping just over 11 million barrels a day, the kingdom is the world’s largest oil producer and the biggest supplier of petroleum to the United States.
The king did not say how much Saudi Arabia might increase production, but it has repeatedly said it was prepared to do so. Last May, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi spoke of raising output to 12.5 million barrels a day by 2009.
Abdullah said the kingdom was “seeking to increase its oil production capacity so that it can meet its commitments for national growth and the demands of the international economies.”
He added that Saudi Arabia “is aware of its international responsibilities and is working to create fair prices to this resource that take into consideration the interests of the producer and the consumer.”
OPEC has cut production twice in the past five months, contributing to relative stability that has kept benchmark crude between $50 and $60 a barrel — down from the record highs of above $78 a barrel last summer, but still around 40 percent above 2004 levels.