DONKEY
Natacha Pisarenko  /  AP file
Even though supply has outpaced demand in recent weeks and allowed global oil inventories to build, U.S. crude oil futures are again near record levels.
updated 1/30/2006 3:05:54 PM ET 2006-01-30T20:05:54

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has ruled out any change in production at its meeting this week but has a consensus to cut output in March, oil ministers said Monday.

Saudi Arabia’s Ali Naimi, one of the most influential voices in OPEC, said that all 11 OPEC members agreed they will keep the daily output quota unchanged at 28 million barrels when they meet Tuesday.

Asked if they had reached consensus on keeping output steady, he replied: “Yes, we’re all in agreement.”

Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez said: “There will be no cut at this meeting.”

Qatari oil minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said that “all options are open” for the March meeting, while Ramirez said that OPEC had reached a consensus to be ready for a cut.

Their remarks came after a meeting of the group’s ministerial monitoring committee, led by Iran, which analyzes market data and makes a policy recommendation to OPEC.

Ramirez also said he would tell Iran’s Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh that Venezuela would side with Iran in its standoff with the West over its nuclear program.

“We support Iran in its nuclear dispute,” Ramirez said.

OPEC president Edmund Daukoru, who is also Nigeria’s oil minister, had told reporters earlier that he saw no “compelling” reason for a cut.

“The market hasn’t changed; the price is still $67 a barrel,” he said.

Iran’s Hamaneh had said earlier Monday that OPEC would “look at the conditions of the market and decide collectively.” That comment seemed to allay fears that Iran — under international pressure over its nuclear program — would use the meeting as a forum for its grievances.

Iran, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, insists its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity, while the U.S. and some European nations fear it could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency is to meet to discuss Iran on Thursday.

Iran and Venezuela had earlier cited a buildup of excess supply as a reason enough to cut production.

Other members, including Qatar, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest oil producer — were against reducing the quota. Some said the market was well-supplied, and that prices were being affected by geopolitical concerns.

“Because of the change in situation, we see that the oil price went up really suddenly, related more to political and psychological reasons than to reality,” al-Attiyah said. “I think OPEC cannot cut the production right now, this is my feeling.”

Libyan Oil Minister Fathi Hamed Ben Shatwan told Dow Jones Newswires that Iran’s nuclear dispute with the international community was one factor underpinning higher oil prices.

“The market is concerned about what could happen to Iranian oil supplies,” he said. “The current situation has nothing to do with supply and demand.”

Shatwan said OPEC didn’t need to cut its oil output now, but needs to monitor prices heading into the second quarter.

Even though supply has outpaced demand in recent weeks and allowed global oil inventories to build, U.S. crude oil futures are again near record levels.

Besides Iran, worries include instability in Nigeria, the world’s eighth-largest oil producer.

Attacks on platforms and pipelines in the oil-rich Niger Delta over the past month have killed dozens of soldiers and civilians and cut 10 percent of the nation’s daily oil output.

On Monday, the Nigerian government said four kidnapped Royal Dutch Shell workers had been freed. The oil workers were captured by armed gunmen at a Shell offshore oil rig on Jan. 11.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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