Friday, November 16, 2001

OPEC irked about Russia




By Bruce Stanley
The Associated Press

        VIENNA, Austria — An oil price war loomed nearer Thursday when OPEC's most powerful member said the cartel would let crude prices fall, if necessary, to pressure Russia and other producers outside the group into cooperating with its plan to cut output.

        Saudi Arabia, the world's No. 1 oil producer, dominates the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the candid comments of its oil minister, Ali Naimi, revealed its frustration at Russia's refusal to make more than a token gesture to tighten its taps.

        Russia is the third-largest crude producer. OPEC sees its cooperation as essential to the group's effort to stem the collapse in oil prices.

        The global economic slowdown has dented demand for crude, and lingering uncertainty from the terrorist attacks on the United States has exacerbated OPEC's financial problems. Prices have tumbled by a third since Sept. 11.

        OPEC delegates meeting Wednesday in Vienna agreed to reduce their daily production target by 1.5 million barrels, or 6 percent, starting in Jan. 1, but only if non-OPEC producers cut their own output by 500,000 barrels a day.

        OPEC would “absolutely not” cut production without a corresponding decrease of 6.5 percent in oil exports from Russia, Oman, Mexico and Norway, Mr. Naimi told reporters.

        “We are in a crisis mode, and we need help,” he said.

        OPEC supplies about a third of the world's oil.

       



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