OPEC to Meet with Non-OPEC Members On Oil Supply

OPEC is planning to host a meeting later this week to discuss market monitoring with seven oil exporting countries outside the group, most of which have already decided to forego the agreement to restrict output. Junior officials from five non-OPEC countries that contributed to OPEC production curbs in January - Mexico, Norway, Russia, Oman and Angola - will be joined by Kazakhstan and Syria for two days of talks at OPEC's Vienna secretariat, OPEC News Agency reported on Monday. The meeting has no power to make decisions on output.

"Stronger OPEC/non-OPEC links will enable us to plan for the future in a coordinated fashion," OPEC research director Adnan Shihab-Eldin was quoted as saying. The 11-member cartel, which has slashed output by 20 percent since early 2001, is keen to keep as many non-members as possible restricting supply to keep prices up.

The talks are set for Thursday and Friday at OPEC's Vienna secretariat, ahead of an OPEC ministerial meeting next Wednesday, when the cartel is expected to extend current quotas for another three months. Of the seven countries attending, only Mexico and Oman have said they intend to continue with cuts beyond this month, as prices have risen well above the level of late last year when many agreed to cut exports. International Brent crude oil dipped below $17 per barrel in November last year, when OPEC warned of an oil price crash if other exporters did not rally around a massive supply cut. Brent has averaged above $25 for the last two months, and some analysts expect prices to rise further if inventories subside over the next six months. Non-OPEC countries agreed to reduce almost half a million barrels of daily exports from January 1, in return for an OPEC cut of 1.5 million.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said last month the world's second largest exporter would abandon the measures gradually over May and June, although its compliance with the agreement was very weak, according to Russian customs data. Norway, whose compliance has been strong, has said it will probably lift the curbs after the current agreement ends at the end of June. Angola, which pledged a small reduction, never fulfilled its promise. Mexico and Oman have both said they plan to extend their limits in line with OPEC, which has all but decided to keep current production levels for the third quarter.