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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 18:18 GMT
Russia hints at oil production rise
Oil workers
Russia is the world's second largest crude oil exporter
Russia gave another hint that it might raise it oil output despite a pledge from the producers' cartel Opec to curb output.

In an interview published on Monday, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said that the country was far less dependent on oil revenue than Opec and could therefore afford to preserve its independence and "carry out [its] own policies."

But he added that Russia "co-operates and intends to co-operate" with Opec in stabilizing oil prices.

Mr Putin offered his country as more stable source of oil to Middle Eastern producers "located in areas of conflict".

He told the Wall Street Journal he hoped to see the oil price in a range of $20-$25 per barrel.

The current price is $19-$20.

Less dependent on oil

While Russia was noted the hard currency inflow generated form energy exports, Mr Putin said the country "not interested in exaggeratedly high prices for oil and other energy resources".

The long-term goal of current reforms was to make the country's economy less dependent on energy exports, he added.

Russia's prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, said recently that the country has no formal obligation to Opec and would provide its own independent oil policy.

Row with Opec

The statements came only months after Russia, the second largest oil exporter in the world, and Opec avoided a conflict over production quotas.

Russia's pledge to curb oil production in the first quarter of 2002 by 150,00 barrels per day was instrumental in averting a price war threatened by Opec, and in securing production cuts from cartel members themselves.

But according to the International Energy Agency Russia's oil output rose by 60,000 barrels per day in January.

And Russia's oil minister told the country's oil companies to be prepared to supply as much oil as possible, strengthening Russia's position in the energy market.

Russia's officials say nevertheless that the country does not "cheat", and that Opec has failed to deliver the promised production cut of 1.5 million barrels per day.

Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil and Opec Secretary General Ali Rodriguez are coming to Moscow next month in an attempt to persuade Russia to stick to its current quota for at least three more months.

But taking in account recent statements by the president and ministers, it is difficult to believe that cartel's officials would achieve their goal.

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Business
Opec's grip on oil market weakens
28 Dec 01 | Business
Opec cuts exports to boost prices
05 Dec 01 | Business
Russia cut prompts oil price surge
04 Dec 01 | Europe
Russia on Opec collision course
26 Nov 01 | Media reports
Press questions Russia's oil policy
15 Nov 01 | Business
Russia defies Opec oil cartel
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