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OPEC Steadies Quotas Ahead of Iran Nuclear Decision

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has decided to hold its output steady. The decision comes amid new threats from cartel member Iran to cut supplies.

OPEC ministers decided to play safe at their regular meeting in Vienna, aware that on the other side of the Danube a crucial debate on Iran's nuclear program could force a change. Despite record prices of around $60 per barrel, OPEC is keeping official output to 28 million barrels per day. Oil analyst, Ehsan Ul-Haq of P.V.M. Oil Associates in Vienna says the cartel is faced with several uncertainties which make forecasts difficult.

"Because of geo-political considerations. In Nigeria more than 450,000 barrels per day of production is offline," he said. "In Ecuador there are problems regarding oil production. Nobody knows for certain what will happen in Iran."

Iran has threatened to use oil as a weapon if the IAEA refers its atomic program to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil supplier and has suffered outages this year because of rebel attacks.

Instability in Iraq is also a factor OPEC must consider. Experts say world oil demand should slow in the second quarter with warmer weather in the northern hemisphere and any cut now would be counter-productive. OPEC says it is committed to providing the market with oil at reasonable prices.