OPEC To Hold Informal April Meeting In Rome

LONDON, April 1, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will hold an informal meeting on the sidelines of an oil producer-consumer conference in Rome later this month to discuss whether current oil market developments warrant calling a special session to consider adjusting output, OPEC sources said Tuesday.

OPEC ministers, when they last met in Vienna in early March, decided to keep production unchanged and meet next in September but agreed to talk again unofficially at the International Energy Forum, which is scheduled for April 20-22 in Rome.

"A meeting is planned," an OPEC governor told Dow Jones Newswires. "They will informally discuss developments in the oil market...and see whether it's necessary to hold an extraordinary meeting."

A senior OPEC delegate said OPEC ministers might meet on April 19 and "they will assess the market situation and release a statement on where OPEC stands from the prices and inventory levels and other issues."

The head of Libyan oil policy Shokri Ghanem told Dow Jones the meeting is yet to be confirmed but was being discussed.

The OPEC Secretariat had no immediate comment.

Both sources said a policy decision was unlikely at the meeting.

"The market is well oversupplied, and fundamentals are sound. There is no need for an action to be taken or for production to be increased," the senior delegate said.

At a previous producer-consumer conference held in Amsterdam in 2004, Saudi Arabia - the world's largest oil producer and de facto OPEC leader - proposed a 2-million-barrel-a-day production hike and also announced it was ready to increase its individual oil output to more than 9 million barrels a day in an attempt to stabilize oil markets and tame oil prices, which had risen to a then-record of above $40 a barrel.

OPEC ministers, however, decided to leave output unchanged and simply issued a statement expressing concerns about high oil prices, which they attributed partially to geopolitical tensions and financial market speculation - reasons that have been reiterated in recent months as crude oil futures have surged above $100 a barrel.

Last week, OPEC President and Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil was quoted by Reuters as telling Algeria's parliament that OPEC could hold an informal meeting but added, "I don't think our decision will be different from that taken during our last meeting."

The OPEC Secretariat won't be delivering a report in Rome on the market outlook as it typically does before policy meetings, the senior delegate said.

"There is no need for it," the delegate said. "This will be a private meeting for OPEC ministers on the sideline of an energy conference. The Secretariat has not been asked to prepare anything."

OPEC ministers currently set to attend the energy forum include, the OPEC president, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi, OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri, Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hussein Nozari, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, Qatari Oil Minister Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah and Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez.

LONDON, April 1, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)