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OPEC Keeps Output Levels Unchanged - 2003-07-31

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has decided to maintain its current production levels in a move intended to keep prices firm.

OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna, Austria agreed to keep output levels of 25.4 million barrels per day. In a statement, OPEC said the market is stable and well supplied, with prices fluctuating at a comfortable level.

The ministers have previously said they are satisfied with oil prices near the top of their $22-to-$28 target range. OPEC's crude oil prices hovered around $27 a barrel this week.

OPEC had expected that renewed exports from Iraq could lower prices for crude oil, but Baghdad's exports are way below their pre-war volume because of looting and sabotage of oil facilities.

Oil analysts say reduced production in Venezuela and Nigeria helped to keep supplies low, and limited oil inventories in the United States and other importing countries have also bolstered OPEC's market position.

OPEC will review oil market conditions in September, and the cartel's president, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiya, says the group will wait until then to make any adjustments.

There are plans for northern Iraq's Kirkuk oil fields to resume exports in August at around 250,000 barrels per day. That would put total Iraqi exports at about 900,000 barrels, with some 350,000 for domestic use.

This is still less than half of Baghdad's pre-war capacity of 2.8 million barrels per day, although it was only actually pumping 2.1 million barrels. OPEC members produce one-third of the world's crude oil.