Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has nominated a candidate for Opec's next secretary general, a Gulf Opec delegate familiar with the matter said, in a move that may reignite a quarrel over influence in Opec between Gulf Arab nations and Iran.
The current secretary general of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Abdullah al-Badri of Libya, completes his second and final three-year term at the end of 2012. Opec will seek to select a replacement, to start in 2013, at its next meeting in June.
Saudi Arabia has nominated Majid Al-Moneef, Saudi's governor at Opec, for the post, the Opec delegate told Reuters.
"There is a lot of support for Moneef. He's well respected and an experienced economist," the Gulf Opec delegate said.
The secretary general is the 12-member organisation's lead representative on the world stage, helps formulate the group's output policy and is in charge of Opec's secretariat in Vienna.
Badri's appointment starting in 2007 ended a three-year impasse over the job. Opec failed to reach a consensus on who would succeed Venezuela's Alvaro Silva.
Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait nominated candidates, but inter-Gulf political rivalry made it impossible to reach agreement. Badri, a former head of Libya's Opec delegation, was a compromise.
"The issue of nominations will be discussed in the upcoming Opec meeting in June," the delegate said.
If agreement on Moneef were achieved, he would be the first Saudi secretary general of Opec since Mohammad Saleh Joukhdar served a one-year term in 1967, the sole Saudi in the post so far.
The post has tended to go to candidates from smaller Opec producers to spread influence beyond Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two largest producers in the group.
So far, Iran has not nominated a candidate, the Islamic Republic's Opec governor, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, told Reuters.
"There has been no official letter from Opec requesting us to nominate someone, but I'm sure when the time comes the minister will select someone," said Khatibi.
"The secretary-general role is a very sensitive one, and last time it took a long time to decide. It will be hard to say what will happen this time," he added.
One analyst said Saudi Arabia may feel that can win Iran's support for its candidate.
"Now Saudi said they are comfortable with oil at $100 that brings them closer to Iran," said Kamel Al Harami, an oil analyst based in Kuwait.
Opec at its last meeting in December agreed a target of 30 million barrels per day, based on a proposal by the secretariat.
This settled a six-month-old argument within Opec after Iran, Venezuela and African countries opposed a Saudi-led proposal to boost output at Opec's June 2011 meeting to make up for a shortfall in Libyan supply.
"The secretariat has had an important role in recent months in bringing members together and the production estimates provided by them are the ones being followed," said the Opec delegate.