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Japan is ready to release its oil stockpiles, in line with other countries, if war breaks out in Iraq, industry minister Takeo Hiranuma said Friday.

“We should actively take steps as a major oil-consuming and -reserving nation to stabilize prices in close coordination with other countries,” Hiranuma, the economy, trade and industry minister, told a news conference.

Japan also expects OPEC members and other oil-exporting countries to increase production in a bid to bring down crude oil prices, which have been moving above $30 per barrel recently, Hiranuma said.

In an emergency meeting scheduled for Sunday, OPEC is expected to discuss raising its output ceiling by a margin of 1 million to 1.5 million barrels a day and will ask non-OPEC oil producers to increase output, he said.

On Thursday in Washington, the United States accused Iraq of concealing weapons of mass destruction and said it will continue to watch the results of ongoing U.N. arms inspections.

The White House made the accusation after chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and IAEA head Mohamed El Baradei said earlier in New York that the inspections have found no evidence that Iraq has clandestine weapons programs.

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