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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday allowing
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue members of the OPEC cartel of oil-producing countries for price-fixing.

The United States, the world's largest oil consumer, has been infuriated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' refusal to raise oil production as the world crude price soars to new highs, approaching $130 per barrel.

The move follows President George W. Bush's failed attempt last week to persuade the leadership of Saudi Arabia, OPEC's leading member, to agree to a production rise.

The bill was passed by both Republicans and Democrats, in a 324-84 vote. However, President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation.

Under current U.S. law, the government is forbidden from pursuing anti-trust suits against sovereign states. The new law would allow the U.S. to treat OPEC members as companies in price-fixing cases.

Many analysts doubt whether U.S. legal action against OPEC nations, which account for around 40% of global oil production, would have any effect, and the White House has warned that passing the bill into law could provoke retaliatory action from the cartel.


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