OPEC does not need to boost oil output at its meeting in February as the market is well supplied, Qatar's Oil Minister said on Wednesday after U.S. President George W. Bush called for the group to pump more.
"I don't think the market needs more oil," the minister, Abdullah al-Attiyah, told Reuters when asked if the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries should increase supplies at the Feb. 1 meeting in Vienna.
"If the market needs more oil, then OPEC can supply it. But that is a big if. Does the market need more oil? No, I don't think so. We can't put more oil on the market if nobody will buy it."
Bush said earlier that he hoped OPEC would be encouraged to boost output after he held talks with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on a trip to the Middle East.
The recent drop in oil prices due to concerns about the U.S. economy showed that the market was well supplied, Attiyah said.
"The price has fallen from $100 to around $90 (a barrel)," Attiyah said. "That's an indication from the market that there is no shortage of supply. The speculators are taking a rest... because of concerns about a U.S. recession."
OPEC needed to be cautious ahead of the seasonal fall in consumption in the second quarter and because of the possible effect on oil demand of a slowdown in the world's largest energy consumer the United States, he added.
"We have to move carefully," he said. "We are facing two problems. We are moving towards the second quarter when we see a drop in consumption. And also there is the question of whether the U.S. is really entering a recession. That would slow demand."
Low crude inventories were due to the high price of oil which had made buyers reluctant to build stocks, Attiyah said. Qatar is one of OPEC's smallest producers, with output of around 800,000 barrels per day.