Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OPEC Agrees to Keep Current Production Levels

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OPEC Agrees to Keep Current Production Levels

Article excerpt

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- OPEC members agreed Tuesday to continue pumping oil at current levels but braced for softer crude prices as Iraq showed a willingness to resume its oil shipments.

Delegates from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries announced their decision after a formal meeting at the cartel's headquarters in Vienna.

OPEC pumps about two-fifths of the world's oil, with an official production of 24.2 million barrels a day.

The meeting unfolded as the U.N. Security Council was debating whether to extend trade sanctions against Iraq, which suspended its crude shipments last month in a dispute with the United Nations.

Britain on Monday indefinitely postponed a vote on a U.S.- British proposal to tighten sanctions on Iraq and introduced a new resolution to extend the U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq for five months. The United Nations has regulated Iraqi trade since the 1990 Gulf War. The head of Iraq's OPEC delegation, Saddam Hassan, said Iraq was prepared to renew its daily exports of 2.1 million barrels of oil "within a week" but only if the Security Council did not attach any conditions to an extension of sanctions.

"As long as it is a straightforward extension ... we are ready," Hassan said.

OPEC president Chakib Khelil said a resumption in Iraqi exports would have a short-term "psychological" impact on oil markets. He added that OPEC expected prices to stabilize later in July and in August whether or not Iraq resumes sales.

"There was a complete consensus on not increasing production at this stage," he told a news conference after the meeting.

Libya's acting oil minister, Abdul Karim, expressed hope earlier that rising seasonal demand during the second half of the year would absorb any additional supplies from Iraq. Refiners typically buy more crude in the fall and winter to process into heating oil for consumers in colder climates. …

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