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    OPEC to Slash Output By 1 Million Barrels Per Day

    Group aims to avoid further price declines without prompting buying frenzy.

    CAIRO -- In hopes of staving off further price declines without triggering a new buying frenzy, delegates said OPEC will reduce output by about a million barrels per day, reported the Associated Press.

    OPEC still has to officially approve the decision. But delegates to the group's formal meeting Friday said that consent was just a formality.

    If implemented, the 10 OPEC members bound by quotas would pump about 1 million barrels per day less than they currently are to scale back to the group's current official ceiling of 27 million barrels per day.

    Asked when the reduction would start, Kuwait's Sheik Ahmad Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said, "Everyone has committed for next month, maybe to start from February."
    Al-Sabah estimated OPEC produces roughly 1.7 million barrels per day above the 27 million figure. Other ministers have put the excess at 1.1 million barrels.

    He said all OPEC members were committed to taking excess oil off the market, and that the group would likely meet again in early February to "follow up on the situation."

    Sentiment for turning down the spigots gathered momentum earlier this week when oil giant Saudi Arabia indicated it was receptive to the idea.

    In comments published Friday, its oil minister, Ali Naimi, told the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Hayat that he supports cutting production by 1 million barrels per day. "It's important that we stop the collapse of oil prices," Naimi told the paper. Al-Hayat reported that if OPEC decides to cut overproduction, Saudi Arabia would cut its January production by 500,000 barrels per day.

    Libyan Oil Minister Fathi bin Shatwan, meanwhile, said some OPEC countries would be able to start cutting back production immediately, while for others the process would take more time.

    The OPEC meeting comes amid members' concern about a possible oil glut in the second quarter of 2005 and prices that are now a quarter below their peaks above $55 per barrel.
    Consuming nations, meanwhile, have called on OPEC to keep output high to underpin economic recovery.

    OPEC's two other options --doing nothing, and risking continued losses, or reducing the quota target and precipitating a new oil crisis -- were clearly not appealing to members. Their decision to try and bring output down to the set level of 27 million barrels appeared to be a bid to reduce the risks both ways.

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