OSAKA — OPEC oil ministers rebuffed calls from Western countries and Japan to increase oil production at their meeting here Thursday, deciding to keep its official crude oil output intact for the October-December quarter.
“There is a consensus that there is enough oil. There is no need for more than we are physically putting into the market at the moment,” said Rilwanu Lukman, president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
In the joint communique released Thursday night, OPEC noted that only moderate global economic growth rates were expected before the yearend, with only normal, seasonal growth in demand expected for the fourth quarter.
“As such, the conference decided that the currently agreed to production levels would be maintained,” the communique read.
There had been concern that some OPEC members had exceeded their agreed-upon quotas, and the communique called for those countries to rein in their excess production.
“We have asked all members to exercise discipline and return to the agreed-upon production levels,” said Lukman, who is also the Nigerian presidential adviser on petroleum and head of the Nigerian delegation.
Prior to the meeting, the 11-member cartel had been under pressure from the United States, Europe, and Japan to increase production to bring down the price of oil, which was trading at close to $27 per barrel Thursday. But several Arab nations, as well as Indonesia, Nigeria, and Venezuela, had opposed an increase.
After a week of silence on the issue, Saudi Arabia, the largest and most influential member of OPEC with nearly 45 percent of OPEC’s total oil production, announced Thursday it did not wish to see a boost in production for the rest of this year.
Saudi Arabia had earlier argued for a boost in production as a way to bring down oil prices, which had risen nearly 50 percent since the beginning of this year to nearly $30 per barrel late last week. It remains the consensus of OPEC that a price between $22 and $28 per barrel will ensure a stable oil market.
The OPEC countries are currently producing about 21.7 million barrels per day. However, pressure to raise production eased after Iraq announced it would readmit United Nations weapons inspectors, calming fears that a war would spark a sudden rise in the international demand.
“We’re satisfied with OPEC’s decision to maintain current production levels,” said Iraq deputy oil minister Saddam Hasan. Iraq has a capacity of 3.1 million barrels per day but is producing only about 2.2 million barrels.
But Hasan refused to discuss what impact Iraq’s announcement earlier this week might have on future oil prices or production quotas.
“We’re here to discuss oil, not politics,” Hasan said.
Saudi Arabia was worried that OPEC members were pumping out more oil than their self-imposed limits allowed, and was calling for a change in quotas to bring the official production figures in line with the real amount.
Lukman admitted that OPEC was pumping about 1.8 million to 2 million barrels a day above the official limit of 21.7 million barrels imposed by its members.
Although there will be no production increase for the rest of 2002, Lukman said OPEC would meet again in December, in Vienna, to reassess the need for a production boost.
OPEC has pledged to increase output by 500,000 barrels daily if the price exceeds $28 per barrel for 10 straight days.
With growing concern about a U.S. attack on Iraq early next year, many in OPEC fear they will once again face oil prices of nearly $30 a barrel and Western pressure to boost production.
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