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EDITIONS
Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Opec keeps oil output unchanged
Rilwanu Lukman
Opec leaders have been under extreme pressure
Ministers from the oil producers' cartel Opec have decided not to increase production of crude oil in the fourth quarter of 2002.

"There is a consensus that there is enough oil. There is no need for more than we are physically putting into the market at the moment," Opec President Rilwanu Lukman said.

Opec had been under pressure to increase production amid fears of a disruption to Middle East supplies if the US attacked Iraq.

But concerns eased after Iraq said it was ready to re-admit weapons inspectors.

In a communique read out to delegates, Opec said it was keeping production quotas steady to maintain stability in the market.

Meeting pressure

The three-monthly Opec meeting could not have come at a more difficult time for the cartel leaders.

The likelihood of an imminent war with Iraq has been changing rapidly over the past days, with mixed messages coming from Baghdad and Washington.

That, in turn, has caused swings in the oil price, which is highly sensitive to politics in the Middle East.

Ministers of the 11 Opec member countries will hold an extraordinary meeting on 12 December to decide what to do about oil output levels.

Price concerns

Opec ministers have been forced to consider whether US strikes against Iraq are imminent.

Opec aims to keep the price of crude oil within a range of $22-28 a barrel.

When the global economic slump caused a slump in oil prices last year, the group cut back production in order to lift the price.

Since January this year, it has kept its quotas on hold, and watched the oil price creep steadily higher.

Now, oil prices are ricocheting around between $27 and $30 a barrel, sometimes rising above the desired range.

Opec members are due to meet next on 12 December in Vienna.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Gregory
"The threat of war over Iraq has added a war premium"
See also:

13 Aug 02 | Business
13 Aug 02 | Business
17 Sep 02 | Business
16 Sep 02 | Business
17 Sep 02 | Middle East
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