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OPEC chief Mohammad Barkindo dies at 63 just weeks before departure

OPEC chief Mohammad Barkindo dies at 63 just weeks before departure
Mohammad Barkindo of Nigeria became head of OPEC in 2016 and was set to step down from the post on August 1. File Photo by Ali Haider/EPA-EFE

July 6 (UPI) -- OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo -- who's been the head of the oil cartel for six years and whose term was scheduled to end in three weeks -- died on Tuesday, the organization announced. He was 63.

Barkindo, who was planning to step down as OPEC chief on July 31, guided the alliance of major overseas oil-producing countries through two industry downturns after he ascended to the top post in 2016. A citizen of Nigeria, he started off as an oil executive in Africa with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

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The oil group did not specify Barkindo's cause of death.

"We lost our esteemed Dr. Muhammad Sanusi Barkindo," NNPC President Mele Kyari said in a tweet. "Certainly, a great loss to his immediate family, the NNPC, our country Nigeria, the OPEC and the global energy community. Burial arrangements will be announced shortly."

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OPEC said Barkindo's leadership will impact OPEC "for many years and decades to come."

"Throughout Barkindo's long career, there have been several central themes that have driven him: an infectious passion for the petroleum industry; an unwavering belief in oil's poverty eradicating potential; a steadfast commitment to sustainable development; the importance of dialogue and multilateralism; and, most fundamentally of all, treating everyone with respect and kindness," OPEC said in a statement.

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Mohammad Barkindo will be succeeded as OPEC head by Haitham al-Ghais, who was scheduled to assume the job in August. File Photo by Mohamed Messara/EPA-EFE

"Despite the attainment of so many heights in his career, Barkindo remained a selfless man of great humility and decency; treating everyone, irrespective of rank or office, with dignity and courtesy. A trailblazer widely admired and respected throughout the globe. A dear friend to many."

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Barkindo was expected to join the U.S. think tank the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center as a distinguished fellow when he left OPEC in August.

Barkindo delivered the keynote address at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Washington, D.C., on June 8. In the speech, he called on international cooperation and teamwork to address the world's most complex problems.

"From a personal viewpoint, at times it feels like the world is at an inflection point, shifting away from global dialogue and cooperation to more restrictive silos," Barkindo said.

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"It is vital that we keep channels of communication open, work together and maintain the multilateral approach to dealing with all global challenges."

OPEC's 13 member states control roughly 80% of the world's crude oil reserves. Barkindo's final two years as OPEC chief saw a global downturn in the oil market due to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a rebound amid the Russian war in Ukraine.

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Barkindo will be succeeded as OPEC head by Haitham al-Ghais, who was scheduled to assume the job in August.

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