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Financial Times: Saudi oil minister rejects Opec raise

By Roula Khalaf and Javier Blas in Riyadh
Published: November 12 2007 22:00 | Last updated: November 12 2007 22:00

Saudi Arabia on Monday made clear Opec would not announce a production increase at this weekend’s Riyadh summit.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Ali Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, said “there will be absolutely no discussion” by heads of states or their oil ministers on short-term supply and demand at the organisation’s summit, which will concentrate on with longer-term strategies of producers.

But with prices close to $100 a barrel, Mr Naimi left the door open to action when the oil cartel meets in Abu Dhabi next month, signalling the group was “watching” the market very carefully and Saudi Arabia would “look at all the information available”.

Nonetheless, he said a decision on a rise at the Abu Dhabi meeting was still “premature”.

Repeating Saudi Arabia’s argument that Opec had “nothing to do with where the price is today”, Mr Naimi said oil inventory levels were still comfortable.

“We have no interest whatsoever in seeing the world regress from its development [because of high energy prices],” he said.

Analysts and some Opec officials believe that the oil cartel, which controls 40 per cent of the world’s output, could be forced to raise production by next month if prices show no sign of retreating.

Opec officials believe much of the recent rally reflects options trading that would be profitable if the oil price rises to $100 a barrel, rather than supply shortages. The options for December, which have contributed to higher prices, expire on Tuesday.

Crude futures fell on Monday $2.40 to $93.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Mr Naimi criticised what he called “pessimistic” views about the adequacy of future supplies, saying they were causing “fear” and sending funds and speculators rushing for crude oil futures.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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