Iraq against big oil hike, blames soaring prices on "manipulation"
Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rachid called Saturday for no more than a 500,000 barrel a day increase in oil production, blaming soaring prices on market speculation and "political manipulation."
Asked whether the OPEC oil-producing cartel should agree to more than the half a million barrels agreed under a price-band mechanism, he said: "I don't think it's necessary."
OPEC agreed a mechanism in March under which it would automatically increase production by 500,000 barrels a day if prices stayed outside of a range of 22-28 dollars a barrel for more than 20 days.
Analysts have forecast that an OPEC meeting Sunday will agree to little more than that, although Saudi Arabia, OPEC's heavyweight and the only member state with substantial spare capacity, is reportedly pushing for more.
The Iraqi minister meanwhile said he was most concerned about the sudden skyrocketing of oil prices, rather than their fundamental levels.
"It has nothing to with market fundamentals. It is mainly speculation and political manipulation," he told reporters as he arrived for a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna.
"We are concerned about the spikes, not the level," he added.
Asked whether OPEC could agree a production increase sufficient to help bring down soaring prices, which have reached 10-year highs over 35 dollars a barrel this week, he replied: "We should arrive at an agreement."
Asked about reports that the meeting could continue until Monday, he said: "Sunday, Monday, it's all good. No problem."
Iraq is an OPEC member but does not come under the cartel's supply-limiting agreements, since it has been under UN sanctions since the Gulf War a decade ago.—AFP
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)