Oil ministers from leading producing countries were expected to hold preliminary talks on Tuesday to hammer out agreement on how much crude oil to supply to cool an overheating market, but consensus appeared elusive.
Analysts have said they expected the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to agree to pump an extra 500,000 barrels per day -- or possibly more -- at the body's formal conference scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
Algerian energy and mines minister Chakib Khelil told reporters OPEC had "almost" reached an agreement on output levels.
However, an hour earlier he had said the market had sufficient oil, contradicting a remark he had made late on Monday suggesting that more crude was needed.
The latest officials to arrive in Vienna on Tuesday, Indonesian mines and energy Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhonyono and United Arab Emirates Oil Minister Obaid bin Saif Al-Nasseri, gave little away to awaiting media.
The Indonesian minister suggested there was no consensus yet, although he said that the market needed more oil.
"I am ready to discuss with my colleagues to study comprehensively to build a consensus," he told reporters.
His Emirati counterpart said merely: "We are going to have a meeting."
Other ministers have been similarly enigmatic.
OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al-Nuaimi consistently refused to say a word to reporters as he sped smiling silently through the lobbies of some of Vienna's finest hotels.
Representatives of the other OPEC member states are expected to arrive here later on Tuesday for bilateral talks before the full conference of 11 OPEC states, scheduled for Wednesday, although OPEC officials said that no precise time had yet been set.
Shortages of petrol (US: gasoline) last week drove crude prices to more than 31 dollars a barrel in London and 33 dollars in New York, but the markets have since calmed on expectation of an OPEC output increase - GENEVA (AFP)
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