OPEC is unlikely to cut output at its upcoming meeting, Saudi Arabia's oil minister said in comments published Tuesday, as indications mounted that the oil producing bloc would resist a temptation to tighten the taps despite wanting higher crude prices.
The Saudi minister, Ali al-Naimi, also voiced concerns about global crude stockpiles, whose tenaciously high levels are being sustained by weak demand linked to the economic meltdown.
In an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat ahead of Thursday's OPEC meeting in Vienna, al-Naimi said that unless those inventories drop, there would be no increase in output by the 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Boosting production "will not happen until we are sure that global inventories are reduced to their normal levels," said al-Naimi, whose country is the world's largest exporter of crude.
He said world crude inventories are currently at between 61 and 62 days of forward cover and the group wants to see them down to 52 or 54 days.
Al-Naimi's remarks highlight the balancing act the group, which pumps almost 40 percent of the world's oil, is facing.
The U.S. benchmark light sweet crude futures contract was trading slightly below $61 per barrel Tuesday, or about $20 per barrel higher than its price when OPEC minister met in the Austrian capital in March to discuss whether additional production cuts were needed.
They held off, opting instead to stick with boosting compliance with an earlier 4.2 million barrels per day in reductions from September 2008 levels.