Venezuela says OPEC should maintain production limits

Eyanir Chinea
Thursday, 28 Nov 2013 | 2:54 PM ET

CARACAS, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Venezuela's oil minister said on Thursday that OPEC should maintain its current production levels at next week's meeting, and any easing of sanctions on Iran would let the group reorganize itself.

"Inventories are being built up and it's above all the averages. There's too much oil, there's more than 2 million barrels that have to be collected," Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez told a news conference in Caracas.

"Our position (at the Dec. 4 meeting in Vienna) will be to maintain the current production levels. Lifting the sanctions on Iran will allow it (OPEC) to recompose itself."

He said some in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had exceeded their quota of the overall 30 million barrel-per-day (bpd) production limit.

"Those inside OPEC who have exceeded their 'ceiling' will have to make adjustments," Ramirez said, in an apparent reference to OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia. He did not elaborate.

Venezuela and Iran are both seen as among the more hawkish members of OPEC, and Ramirez hailed the agreement struck between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

The deal, which marked a turning point in U.S. relations with Iran that have been fraught for decades, allows a six-month period of limits to Iran's nuclear program in exchange for up to $7 billion worth of sanctions relief.

"There was direct aggression against the people of Iran," he said. "We are happy because we don't want blood shed over oil."

The agreement, which halts Iran's most sensitive nuclear activity, its higher-grade enrichment of uranium, amounts to a package of confidence-building steps towards reducing tension and creating a more stable, secure Middle East.

The deal includes the easing of European Union shipping insurance sanctions that could boost Iran's crude exports by as many as 400,000 bpd, according to an analyst.

Iranian oil sales have declined by more than half from their 2011 levels, to about 1 million bpd, as a result of combined EU and U.S. sanctions on oil trade, shipping insurance and banking.

Western bans on investment in Iran's energy sector, or the provision of technical services, remain firmly in place.

(Additional reporting and writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Marguerita Choy)