STEADY RISE IN PRICES URGED FOR OPEC

STEADY RISE IN PRICES URGED FOR OPEC

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should consider modest but steady hikes in the $18 nominal price for its crude basket, perhaps in line with inflation, to avoid potential price spikes, John Lichtblau, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, said Friday.

Mr. Lichtblau told a conference on U.S.-Saudi relations at New York University that some OPEC members have favored keeping the target price at $18 for at least several more years, but that would "accelerate the decline in (U.S.) oil production and bring about a decline in (natural) gas production."Reviewing the relationship of the United States, the world's largest oil importer, and Saudi Arabia, the largest exporter, Mr. Lichtblau noted that U.S. import requirements will continue to grow at a faster rate than those of the 12-nation European Community.

He predicted a gain in refined product imports from Saudi Arabia, and lauded the discovery of substantial quantities of very light, sweet crude in

helping to replace depleting North American supplies.

"For the time being, Star Enterprise may remain the only Saudi oil operation in the U.S.," he said. He added that the Saudi venture with Texaco Inc. made Star Enterprise the largest importer of Saudi crude in 1989.