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OPEC Agrees to Leave Production Quotas Unchanged - 2003-12-04


The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has agreed to leave production quotas unchanged for now, but said it will review its policy at a special meeting in February.

OPEC oil ministers meeting in closed session decided to defer any changes in production quotas until next year. In September, the cartel made a surprise decision to cut production by 3.5 percent to 24.5 million barrels per day.

Since that meeting, oil prices have been at the top of the OPEC range of $22 to $28 per barrel. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said the dollar slump justifies high crude prices.

Petroleum analyst George Beranek of the PFC Energy firm in Washington says OPEC will need to cut supply next year.

"I think that you have the standard second quarter issue, where global oil demand hits its lowest point of the year, and normally, OPEC has to cut rather deeply to meet that," he said. "They're used to managing the second quarter demand problem. The question of incremental Iraqi exports should not be so big as to cause significant complications to managing the second quarter problems."

Mr. Beranek said OPEC has made a good start in reintegrating founding member Iraq, which is now producing almost two million barrels of oil per day.

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