Norway Not Planning Production Cuts

The world's third largest exporter, Norway, said does not have any plans to cut output and would not automatically match any future measures by OPEC to bolster prices. However, Einar Steensnaes said he would consider production cuts if prices were at risk of collapse. "We have no plan for a production cut now -- we don't see any reason for a production cut now," Oil and Energy Minister Einar Steensnaes told a joint news conference with visiting Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez. Steensnaes said that current oil prices were "acceptable."

The Venezuela Oil Minister came to Oslo as part of an OPEC bid to gain cooperation from nonaligned oil exporters should OPEC decide to cut output at a meeting in Qatar this week, or later. OPEC fears the resumption of Iraqi oil exports will undermine prices.

Steensnaes noted Norway cut its 3.0 million barrel per day output in the first half of 2002, by 150,000 bpd when prices were weak but said that Oslo would not slavishly follow OPEC.

"There will be no automatic decision from Norway depending on what OPEC does," he said. "The decision is made unilaterally." Norway is the biggest exporter behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. "I think we managed to stabilize the market in a very problematic situation (in 2002), and we would do that again if necessary," Steensnaes said.

OPEC invited rival exporters, including Norway, Mexico and Russia, to Qatar for its June 11th meeting, hoping to maintain a fragile partnership that has kept OPEC's basket price near $25 per barrel for four years. Norway, in line with its customary policy of keeping its distance from the cartel, declined to attend the meeting.