LONDON — Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani lost his job as Saudi Arabian oil minister in 1986 because of petty jealousies and policy disputes with King Fahd, according to a biography published on Monday.
The abrupt firing of the man seen as the architect of OPEC's rise in the 1970s stunned the oil world and made many experts wonder if the cartel would lose its authority.
American author Jeffrey Robinson, in "Yamani: The Inside Story," says King Fahd dismissed Yamani because he felt Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking non-royal had grown too important.
The king also opposed Yamani's policy of turning up the taps to restore the Organization of Petroleum Countries' share of the world energy market, which had declined since the 1973 Arab oil embargo as a result of Western efforts to develop new sources, such as the North Sea, that were outside the cartel's control.
Yamani wanted to force non-cartel producers to cut output. But his tactic, creating a glut, also drove down prices by 60% to $9 a barrel in mid-1986 and slashed Saudi revenue.
The king wanted Yamani to press for both higher production and an oil price of $18 a barrel at an October, 1986, OPEC meeting. Yamani put up some resistence and a week later heard on television that he had lost his job, Robinson says.
"His downfall, due to jealousy and his vocal stand against the king's short-term thinking, eliminated from Arab politics the only man whose great credibility as a moderate commanded respect in both the Middle East and the West," Robinson says.
Yamani has never talked publicly about his firing and Robinson said they had agreed not to discuss it or his relations with the royal family during their meetings, which took place over several months.
According to Robinson, he obtained information on the two topics from other sources. He also said that Yamani wanted to stop the book's publication because it trod on sensitive ground.