Iran to ask OPEC to return to pre-Libya output

Reuters, Friday 11 Nov 2011

Iran plans to ask OPEC countries that raised output during the Libyan stoppage to return to their pre-war levels of production

(Photo: Reuters)

Current OPEC president Iran will ask the oil producers' group, ahead of its December meeting, to return output levels to where they were before the Libya crisis earlier this year, the Oil Ministry's SHANA website reported on Friday.

"We will ask the countries that increased their production when Libya stopped production to change the level of production to the previous level," SHANA quoted Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi as saying.

Iran successfully opposed a move led by the biggest producer Saudi Arabia at the last OPEC meeting in June to raise OPEC quotas to meet a shortfall in supplies from Libya.

Saudi and its Gulf OPEC allies raised production anyway after the meeting -- a move criticised by price hawk Iran.

The latest Reuters survey, published on Oct. 31, showed overall OPEC output had fallen for a second month as Saudi Arabia and other members reduced supply as Libyan output continued to recover.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets on Dec. 14 to set output policy and, with oil prices well above $100 a barrel, some OPEC officials have indicated the group will not rush to adjust supplies.

Brent crude was steady above $114 a barrel on Friday, after sharp gains in the previous session and Qasemi said prices around or above $100 were "appropriate".

"The current situation of oil is relatively fair but as a producer we prefer that the price is better than its current level," he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.


Qasemi said sanctions that Western powers are threatening to tighten on Iran over its nuclear programme would not push up global crude prices.

"It doesn't seem that the oil price will have any change in this regard," he told IRNA when asked whether sanctions would push up oil prices.

His comments came a day after European Union diplomats told Reuters the EU was working on new sanctions on Iran in the wake of a U.N. report that presented what it called credible evidence of a military dimension to Iran's nuclear programme.

Washington is also looking at tighter sanctions on the fifth largest oil exporter, but new sanctions are unlikely to be directly aimed at restricting Iran's crude sales -- something that could have a major impact on a fragile global economy and would be opposed particularly by China and Russia.

Sanctions already in place have forced western oil companies to withdraw from working on Iranian oil and gas projects and have also made financial transactions more difficult for Iranian companies so it is not yet clear what would be included in a new wave of measures.

The United States and Israel say they do not rule out military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs, but any such move could have untold consequences on the global oil market as Tehran has threatened to disrupt oil traffic through the Gulf if attacked.

Barclays Capital analysts said in a research note the risk of war in Iran was low but had risen from last year.

"Other than the ratcheting up of sanctions ... the key fear in the oil markets is the potential closure of the Strait of Hormuz," they said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta poured further doubt on the military option, saying on Friday that it "could have a serious impact in the region, and it could have a serious impact on U.S. forces in the region." 

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