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OPEC Rejects Call for Higher Output


OPEC's 13 members, meeting in Vienna Friday, rejected calls by the United States to increase oil output. The oil cartel said supplies meet current demands. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

Following talks in Vienna, OPEC members decided to keep daily output at its current levels at nearly 29.7 million barrels a day. Their meeting comes after oil prices - which saw an unprecedented high of more than $100 per barrel of crude in early January - tumbled by 10 percent, to below $90 a barrel Thursday.

U.S. President George Bush urged OPEC to increase production during a visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, arguing high oil prices could hurt world economies.

But OPEC members argue the steep prices reflected speculation activity rather than a supply shortage. Members also fear that a weaker world economy, rocked by the U.S. mortgage crisis and other economic problems, may translate into less demand for oil.

Algerian oil minister and OPEC President Chakib Khelil, who headed the Vienna conference, said oil supplies were not the problem.

"Supplies are going to be there, if of course there is a demand, it is going be there and I don't feel the world economy should be concerned about the lack of oil," he said. "It should be more concerned about the, you know, the financial crisis that we are witnessing and the impact on the world growth."

OPEC is particularly concerned about the U.S. economic slowdown and the weak dollar, which hurts the purchasing power of its members.

OPEC's humanitarian branch separately announced Friday it had approved $5 million for health, sanitation and other key services to help residents in Gaza amid an ongoing blockade of the territory which is run by the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

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