Iran snubs Doha proposal, won't freeze on oil output levels

Iran snubs Doha proposal, won't freeze on oil output levels

 Iran today snubbed a proposal agreed to by four influential oil producers to cap their crude output if others do the same, with a senior Oil Ministry official saying Tehran has no intention of freezing oil output levels.

Mahdi Asali, Iran's OPEC envoy, said his country will in fact keep increasing its crude exports until it reaches levels attained before international sanctions were imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Asali's comments came as Iran's oil minister was expected to hold three-way, closed-door talks in Tehran with his counterparts from Iraq and Venezuela.

Today, Venezuela joined Russia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in conditionally agreeing to cap their output at last month's levels in order to halt a slide that has pushed oil prices to their lowest point in more than a decade. Oil prices recently plummeted below USD 30 a barrel, the lowest in 13 years.

The four countries made their announcement following an unexpected meeting on Tuesday in the Qatari capital of Doha that pointedly did not include Iran. They agreed to act only if other producers made similar freezes.

Asali said the fall in oil prices should be blamed on oversupply and that it was up to Saudi Arabia and others to cut down production to boost oil prices. He said the four nations that participated at the Doha gathering could stabilise oil prices on their own if they cut their production by 2 million barrels a day.

"These countries increased their production by 4 million barrels when Iran was under sanctions," Asali was quoted as saying by the Shargh daily. "Now it's primarily their responsibility to help restore balance on the market. There is no reason for Iran to do so."

Iran is eager to ramp up its exports now that sanctions related to its nuclear program have been lifted, saying recently it aims to put another 500,000 barrels a day on the market.

Figures from the International Energy Agency show it pumped 2.9 million barrels daily in December, before sanctions were lifted.

Iran used to export 2.3 million barrels per day but its crude exports fell to 1 million in 2012.

Yesterday, Iran's petroleum minister, Bijar Namdar Zangeneh, signaled the Islamic Republic has no intention of giving up its share of the market. He acknowledged that global markets are "oversupplied," but said Iran "will not overlook its quota," according to comments carried by his ministry's Shana news service.

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