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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Opec vote to keep output stable
Venezuelan oil refinery
Prices have hit a five-month low recently
Oil producers' group Opec has voted to maintain its output quotas at current levels, despite crude oil prices hitting five-month lows.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi Naimi confirmed the group had left its output targets at 28 million barrels per day.

But the group left the door open for a possible cut in production before the end of the year.

The decision came despite prices dropping from a record $78.40 a barrel in July to below $66 in Monday trade.

Slowdown?

Forecasts suggesting that demand for oil could fall in 2007 has prompted some concern among the group's members.

Opec economists point to signs of an economic slowdown in the US and the fact that China has raised interest rates in a bid to cool its economy as factors that could crimp demand.

As a result, the group's member nations voted to give its president - Nigerian oil minister Edmund Daukoru - the power to call an extraordinary general meeting ahead of its next gathering in December, should one be needed.

Mr Daukoru said Opec would be keeping a close eye on market conditions.

"We are monitoring as I speak," he said after the meeting.

Despite recent events that have reduced production - from BP's partially shutting down its Prudhoe Bay field to Iraq and Nigeria seeing supplies disrupted due to unrest - global supplies are still strong.

Opec's 11 member states - including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Nigeria - control more than a third of the world's output.


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