The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has agreed to increase production to 24.5 million barrels per day to cover a shortfall of oil from Venezuela, where a six week strike has disrupted crude exports.

OPEC ministers, meeting in closed session, agreed to increase production by 1.5 million barrels per day.

The oil minister of the United Arab Emirates said this would offset the shortfall in production resulting from the six-week strike in Venezuela, normally the cartel's third-largest producer.

The emergency session was called amid deteriorating market conditions. Crude prices surged last week to a two year high of $33 per barrel, well above OPEC's target price of $22-28 per barrel.

The increase is to take effect February 1, and will be reviewed at a regular meeting in March.

Analyst Raad Alkadiri, of the PFC energy research organization, told VOA that the oil cartel is also concerned about a possible war in Iraq. "OPEC is dealing with the Venezuela issue and has a side eye on a potential war in Iraq and the kind of disruptions that might bring," he explained. "So, consequently, it is looking at a swing in production of somewhere around four million barrels a day at the worst, which means, it needs to be flexible," he said.

OPEC accounts for about one-third of the world's crude supplies, which total 79 million barrels per day.