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Saudis Hint at Maintaining OPEC Production Targets

FILE - The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) logo is pictured at its headquarters in Vienna.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said a key grouping of Gulf oil producers has "reached a consensus" on oil production targets, and will take a unified position when OPEC oil ministers meet Thursday in Vienna.

In comments Wednesday, al-Naimi did not disclose contents of the agreement within the influential Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

But the Reuters news agency quotes a Gulf OPEC delegate as saying oil output will not be cut.

The OPEC meeting is widely seen as one of the most crucial in years, with oil prices falling more than 30 percent since June, from $115 a barrel to a four-year low of below $78. Analysts attribute the price decline to the U.S. shale boom and slower than expected economic growth in Europe and China.

The 12-nation OPEC cartel, which pumps about one-third of the world's oil, is facing pressure from its poorer members to cut output.

Wealthier producers say cutting output at this time, though, would result in a further loss of market share in North America, where oil production from shale extraction has surged.