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Ecuador to miss OPEC meeting

VIENNA, May 27 – Ecuador\’s Oil Minister Derlis Palacios will not attend Thursday\’s OPEC meeting, the country\’s ambassador to Vienna told AFP Wednesday amid major legal disputes with foreign oil firms in Ecuador.

The ambassador, Diego Stacey, who will stand in for the minister at the meeting, said Palacios would not be able to attend due to "force majeure" but gave no further details about the minister\’s absence.

The unusual absence by one of its 12 members from the meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries comes as Ecuador is renegotiating contracts with foreign oil firms operating in the country.

Foreign oil companies, including France\’s Perenco, Repsol-YPF, Brazil\’s Petrobras and China\’s Andes Petroleum, account for half Ecuador\’s oil extraction.

But in March, the government impounded 70 percent of Perenco\’s production, saying it would go to pay the firm\’s 338 million dollar tax debt.

Ecuador is the smallest member of OPEC and averaged a daily production of 505,000 barrels of oil in 2008.

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