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Saudi Oil Minister Confirms Production Boost

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi on Tuesday gave no sign whether OPEC would agree this year's second output rise when it meets next week, but confirmed that the kingdom had boosted production to 9 million barrels per day (bpd).

"When we meet on the fifth we will look at all the information available, and decide accordingly, on whatever the information tells us about supply, demand, inventories," Naimi told reporters in Singapore, where he is due to speak at an energy conference on Wednesday.

Asked when OPEC would increase supplies to the market, he said: "How do you expect me to know that?"

His comments come after Iran's oil minister said at the weekend that some ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries were advocating an increase in production at the Dec. 5 meeting in Abu Dhabi, although most officials have said that they do not believe the market is short of crude oil.

Oil prices have fallen this week on signs that some in the group may be favouring another supply boost after the Nov. 1 increase of 500,000 bpd failed to tame oil's rally.

No Hint on OPEC

Naimi said the kingdom was now pumping 9 million bpd, which would be about 200,000 bpd higher than the Reuters survey estimate for October, the month before the cartel implemented its rise. However the figure is lower than the 9.15 million bpd estimated by tanker tracking consultants Petrologistics.

U.S. crude was lower on Tuesday, little changed on Naimi's comments but down from Friday's record-high closing price of $98.18 a barrel. Oil is still up over 40 percent from a mid-August low under $70.

When asked whether he was concerned by high prices, Naimi gave his standard answer: "Price is determined by the market, so let's leave it at that. It goes up, it goes down, that's what the market does."

OPEC ministers have given few clues as to what they may decide in Abu Dhabi. While concerned that near $100 oil could erode demand and weaken the world economy, many say that speculators and political anxiety -- not a lack of supply -- is the cause, and fear a price collapse if they pump too much crude.

Indonesia, which has limited policy power as it is tied with Qatar as the group's smallest member, will support the group if it decides to boost supply, Mines and Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told reporters separately in Jakarta.

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