Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi (left) at a meeting in Doha last month
Iran's oil minister on Sunday renewed calls for OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to ease back their above-quota production as Libyan oil flows back into the market. "Today, supply and demand in the market is balanced and Iran's policy is to keep OPEC member states from raising production," Rostam Qasemi said on the oil ministry's website ahead of a meeting by the cartel on Wednesday. © Marwan Naamani - AFP
Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi (left) at a meeting in Doha last month
AFP
Last updated: December 11, 2011

Iran urges OPEC to reduce above-quota output

Iran's oil minister on Sunday renewed calls for OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to ease back their above-quota production as Libyan oil flows back into the market.

"Today, supply and demand in the market is balanced and Iran's policy is to keep OPEC member states from raising production," Rostam Qasemi said on the oil ministry's website ahead of a meeting by the cartel on Wednesday.

Iran also wishes to see an "end (to) some countries' extra production which started when Libya exited the market," he said.

Qasemi did not name the countries, but the remarks were clearly aimed at Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The two Gulf states boosted production to compensate for the suspension of Libyan oil exports to avoid a surge in world prices after the North African country's descent into civil war this year.

Tehran, which traditionally favours high oil prices, has on several occasions called for a halt to the above-quota production since Libya resumed production in September, but it has largely not been heeded.

"Libya's production will reach 1.5 million barrels a day in less than a year, and Iraq is also seeing a rise in production," Qasemi said.

Libyan production topped 600,000 barrels a day in November, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

OPEC, of which Iran currently holds the rotating presidency, is expected to maintain its quota system during this week's ministerial meeting in Vienna, analysts say.

The oil cartel is currently injecting 30 million barrels per day (bpd) into the market, including the output from Iraq, which is exempt from quotas as it struggles to rebuild after years of conflict.

Excluding Iraq, the cartel is pumping almost 10 percent above its aggregate quota limit.

Saudi Arabia -- OPEC's biggest producer -- was pumping 9.45 million bpd in October, well above its quota of 8.05 million, according to the IEA.

Riyadh has said it is prepared to further increase its production to avoid tightening in the market amid talks of a possible EU embargo on Iranian crude to pressure Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme.

Earlier on Sunday, Qasemi told Mehr news agency he predicted the European Union would not go ahead with sanctions on Iran's oil sector because of the risk it would result in "a drastic hike in oil prices."

But even if an embargo were imposed, "Iran would have no problem replacing European buyers" for the approximately 450,000 bpd Tehran is currently exporting to the EU, he said.

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