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OPEC Delays Production Cuts Till February


OPEC oil ministers meeting in Nigeria have agreed to cut the organization's overall production by half a million barrels a day in February, but turned down calls for more immediate cuts. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA from Abuja.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Thursday agreed in principle to suspend production by 500,000 barrels a day on February 1.

The move to cut the organization's overall production by about two percent sent world oil prices higher. However, the ministers, who had been widely expected to agree to cut production as early as January, decided against such a move.

Some ministers had been pushing for earlier cuts to address and oversupply, but oil experts say stocks of oil have been tightening.

The decision was believed to be a compromise and an attempt to bridge differences between members who supported maintaining current production levels and those pressing for cutbacks. OPEC ministers said they may consider a review of production in February.

OPEC produces about a third of the world's oil supplies. Members meet regularly to fix their output quota to control prices and maximize their oil revenues.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, who opened the session, blamed what he called extraneous factors for the difficulties in achieving stability in the international oil market and urged OPEC members to pool their resources in a new drive to limit the dominance of Western oil companies.

"It appears that what our countries have gained from controlling our God-endowed natural resources is now being lost through the near total domination of the service sector of the industry by a few foreign companies," he said. "Admittedly, the oil industry is capital intensive and high-tech, thus giving advantage to the industrialized nations. However, if we pool our expertise together, share experiences, research findings and technologies, I do believe that we will soon come to effectively control not only our resources, but the technology to control them."

Nigeria, the world's sixth largest oil producer and a leading member of OPEC, is hosting its first ever OPEC meeting. Security remains an issue in the most populous nation in Africa, especially in the troubled Niger Delta where foreign oil workers are routinely kidnapped.

Nigeria's police have deployed some 2,500 men in the capital to ensure maximum security.

Nigeria's oil minister and current OPEC president, Mr. Daukoru says by hosting the session, Nigeria is hoping to change its negative perception abroad.

"It is good to bring OPEC here so that people can savor what has been achieved, taking the strides in other sectors, not just the oil sector," he said. "When people are far away, distant news always sound more ominous than its really is. It is very good to be here. There are some who at first consideration, would not want to be here. We encourage you to move around."

The 11-member OPEC reduced its output quota last October in Doha to check a slide in prices. The Abuja meeting also approved Angola's membership and appointed a new secretary-general.

Angola is sub-Saharan Africa's second largest oil producer after Nigeria.