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Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former Saudi oil minister, dies at 90

Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Saudi Arabia’s powerful petroleum minister and architect of the Arab world’s will to control its own energy resources in the 1970s and its subsequent ability to affect oil production, fuel prices and international affairs , died in London. He was 90 years old.

His death was announced on Saudi state television on Tuesday.

In an era of turbulent energy policies, Mr. Yamani, a Harvard-trained lawyer, spoke on behalf of Arab oil producers on the world stage as the industry weathered the Arab-Israeli wars, a revolution in Iran and growing pains. Global demand for oil has elevated the governments of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states to areas of unimaginable wealth. Traveling across Europe, Asia and America to promote Arab oil interests, he met heads of government, appeared on television and made himself known. In a flowing Arabic dress or Savile Row suit, speaking English or French, he straddled cultures, loving European classical music and writing Arabic poetry.

Mr Yamani generally sought price stability and orderly markets, but he is best known for devising a 1973 oil embargo that led to soaring world prices, gasoline shortages and a quest for cars. smaller, renewable energy sources and independence from Arab oil.

As Saudi oil minister from 1962 to 1986, Mr. Yamani was the most powerful commoner in a kingdom that possessed some of the world’s largest oil reserves. For nearly 25 years, he was also the dominant official of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose growing and falling production quotas rippled like tides in world markets.

In 1972, Mr. Yamani has decided to wrest control of the Gulf’s vast oil reserves from Aramco, the consortium of four US oil companies that has long exploited them. As Arab leaders demanded the nationalization of Aramco – a takeover that could have cost US technical and marketing expertise, as well as capital – Mr. Yamani adopted a more moderate strategy.

As part of the historic “stake” deal negotiated by Mr. Yamani, Saudi Arabia was granted the rights to immediately acquire 25% of the foreign concessions and gradually increase their stakes to majority ownership. Aramco, meanwhile, continued to operate its concessions, profiting from the extraction, refining and marketing of oil, although it had to pay significantly higher fees to the Saudi government.

The deal allowed oil to circulate in a dependent industrialized world and gave Arab oil producers time to develop their own technical and marketing expertise. These developments ultimately brought enormous prosperity to the Gulf states and a radical shift in economic and political power in the region.

In 1973, after Israel defeated Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War and Arab leaders demanded the use of oil as a political weapon, Mr. Yamani designed an embargo to put pressure on states -United and other allies to withdraw their support for Israel and Israel. withdraw from occupied Arab lands. The embargo sent shockwaves around the world, caused a split in the North Atlantic alliance, and tilted Japan and other nations towards the Arabs.

But the United States held the line. President Richard M. Nixon has created an energy czar. Gasoline rationing and price controls were imposed. There were long lines and occasional fights at the pump. While inflation persisted for years, a new emphasis was placed on the exploration and conservation of energy, including, for a time, a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour on the highways.

A tall man with pensive eyes and a goatee Van Dyke, Mr. Yamani struck Westerners as graceful, perceptive and tenacious.

“He speaks quietly and never hammers the table,” one US oil executive told The New York Times. “When the discussions get hot, he becomes more patient. In the end, he succeeds with what seems like sweet reason, but it’s kind of tough.

In 1975, Mr. Yamani had two contacts with violence. Her boss, King Faisal, was assassinated by a royal nephew in Riyadh. Nine months later, he and other OPEC ministers were taken hostage by terrorists led by Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal.

For years after the embargo, Yamani struggled to contain oil prices, believing Saudi Arabia’s long-term interest was to prolong global dependence on affordable oil. But the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in the 1979 Islamic revolution triggered an energy crisis. Iranian production fell, prices jumped, panic set in, OPEC stocks flooded the market, and prices fell again.

In 1986, after a prolonged global oil glut and disagreements between Mr. Yamani and the royal family over quotas and prices, King Fahd sacked oil minister, ending his 24 years as Saudi Arabia’s most famous non-royal.

Ahmed Zaki Yamani was born on June 30, 1930 in Mecca, the holy city of pilgrimage Islam, one of the three children of Hassan Yamani, a judge of Islamic law. The family name originates from Yemen, the land of his ancestors. The boy was devoutly religious, getting up early to pray before school. Sent abroad for graduate studies, he graduated from King Fuad I University in Cairo in 1951, New York University in 1955 and Harvard Law School in 1956.

Him and Laila Sulleiman Faidhi married in 1955 and had three children. His second wife was Tamam al-Anbar; they married in 1975 and had five children.

In 1958, the royal family enlisted him to advise Crown Prince Faisal, and his rise was rapid. Within a year he was Minister of State without Portfolio and in 1962 Minister of Petroleum. In 1963, Mr. Yamani and Aramco jointly founded a Saudi College of Petroleum and Minerals, to teach oil industry expertise to Arab students.

After his dismissal as Minister of Petroleum, Mr. Yamani became a consultant, entrepreneur and investor and settled in Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland. In 1982, he joined other financiers at Investcorp, a Bahrain-based private equity firm. In 1990 he founded the Center for Global Energy Research, a London market analysis group. A biography, “Yamani: The Inside Story,” by Jeffrey Robinson, was published in 1989.

Ben hubbard contribution to reports.


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