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Kuwait oil, gas workers end strike, pledge to push production back up

Kuwaiti oil and gas workers have ended a three-day strike that had temporarily cut the OPEC member's crude production by nearly half, the trade union said in a statement posted on its Twitter account.

"In honor of his highness the Emir ... we have decided the following. First, the cancellation of the general strike and the attendance of all oil sector workers at their places of work beginning at seven in the morning on Wednesday 20 April 2016," the Oil & Petrochemicals Industries Workers Confederation wrote.

The union further pledged "to make every effort to immediately return production to its previous level."

News of the strike's end came just hours after Kuwait's oil minister had ruled out negotiations with the employees until they stopped their action, while one of the union leaders said the thousands of workers would hold out until planned public sector pay cuts were canceled.

U.S. oil prices fell slightly after the news. Oil markets had rallied this week as the strike forced Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) to cut output to as little as 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd), down from a normal level of about 3 million bpd. By Tuesday output had recovered to around 1.5 million bpd.

Workers fear reduced salaries, benefits and staff layoffs will be part of a planned government overhaul of the payroll system in the public sector.

In an interview with Kuwaiti TV channel al-Rai, Kuwait's acting oil minister, Anas al-Saleh, said production would continue and that no talks would proceed during a strike.

"We cannot sit down at the negotiating table with the unions during a strike. We will achieve the impossible to continue to operate the oil sector despite the strike," Saleh said.

Unions had not said how long the walkout would last. Non-Kuwaiti oil workers are not on strike.

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