An official Iraqi newspaper on Wednesday warned fellow OPEC member states against falling into the American "trap" of hiking production to lower world oil prices.
"The prices game played by the United States and its allies is very clear and known," charged Ath-Thawra, mouthpiece of the ruling Baath party.
"Iraq sees no justification for an OPEC production hike" during the 11-member cartel's next meeting in Vienna on June 21, it added.
The paper urged OPEC members "not to fall into the same trap as last March when it upped production under American pressure."
Oil prices surged Tuesday, with the price of benchmark Brent crude in London rising three cents to 31.51 dollars a barrel, and light sweet crude in New York climbing 73 cents to 32.47 dollars.
The levels are the highest since early March and have in theory remained high enough to trigger an informal mechanism to hike OPEC output if prices stray outside a 22-28 dollar band for more than 20 working days.
Ath-Thawra also accused US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson of having stated "with no objectivity that oil prices are high because of a fall in world supply".
"The US administration is trying to provoke an increase in prices a couple of weeks before the OPEC meeting" to push for the cartel to lower production, the daily said.
Iraq's oil minister Amer Rashid warned last week that Baghdad will oppose any decision to raise oil production at the meeting.
Rashid said pressure from Washington on OPEC members to lower prices by increasing output "serves its own political interests to the detriment of those of countries in the cartel".
Iraq is an OPEC member but exempted from production quotas because of the embargo in force since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It is authorized to export crude under UN supervision to finance imports of essential goods.
Ath-Thawra also accused the International Energy Agency (IEA) of having "knowingly provided false figures to exert psychological pressure on oil producers so they increase production".
The IEA monthly oil report said demand in the three months to the end of June is expected to average 74.4 million barrels a day, 650,000 barrels a day less than forecast last month "primarily due to a demand slowdown caused by higher prices." - BAGHDAD (AFP)
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