OPEC Keeps Production Output Level

OPEC ministers have decided to keep oil production levels the same through the end of 2002. Consuming nations were asking for an output increase to help cut rising fuel bills, but OPEC has determined that the market is adequately supplied and any increase in price has been based on talks of a U.S. campaign in Iraq. "I think they are political prices, not market prices," said Qatari oil minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, who was named Thursday as the new president of OPEC.

OPEC's most important player, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi, said oil is now at a good level for buyers and sellers alike, adding he would like to see its price average $25 per barrel, a "magic number" slightly below the current level, but more expensive than oil has been for most of this year.

OPEC maintained its official supply ceiling of 21.7 million barrels per day, which is being boosted by up to 2 million barrels daily as most members cheat on their individual output quotas. In an acknowledgment of concerns that high prices could prove economically damaging to oil-importing nations, the ministers said they would gather again on December 12 at OPEC headquarters in Vienna to take a fresh look at the market.