Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Opec dashes oil supply rise hopes

Opec President Chakib Khelil
Opec President Chakib Khelil arriving for the meeting in Vienna

The head of Opec, the cartel of oil-producing nations, has said it is unlikely to increase production at this week's meeting.

It had been hoped members would boost the supply of oil to help prices fall from their historically-high levels.

Crude oil hit a new record of almost $104 a barrel at the start of the week but settled at $99.52 late on Tuesday.

Oil ministers from Opec member nations are gathering in Vienna ahead of their meeting which starts on Wednesday.

"I don't think Opec would consider increasing production because then we would be increasing to meet a demand that doesn't exist," Opec President Chakib Khelil said.

US government data, due on Wednesday, is expected to show it has a good supply of crude oil and domestic fuel.

US President George W Bush said it would be an error if Opec members didn't recognise the impact high prices were having on the US.

"I think it is a mistake to have your biggest customer's economy to slow a result of high energy prices," he said.

Earlier the International Energy Agency had said it favoured output to remain at current levels, even as supplies were tight.

Oil prices have risen to record highs due to high demand for the commodity and the weakening dollar, which has prompted investors to switch to oil and other reputed safe havens such as gold.

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