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Iraq boosts oil production to record before talks to cap output

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Iraq increased crude output to a record level in March, ahead of a meeting in Qatar of Opec members and other producers on capping production to curb a global glut.

[DUBAI] Iraq increased crude output to a record level in March, ahead of a meeting in Qatar of Opec members and other producers on capping production to curb a global glut.

Crude output in Opec's second-biggest producer rose to 4.55 million barrels a day last month from 4.46 million barrels in February, according to the state-run Oil Marketing Co.

Exports increased to 3.81 million barrels a day in March from 3.23 million the previous month, the company, known as Somo, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers such as Russia are set to meet in the Qatari capital Doha on April 17 to decide on a possible freeze in crude output in an attempt to shore up prices. Iraq supports an agreement reached in February between Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar to cap output at January levels, Iraqi oil ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said on March 23, without confirming if the country agrees to freeze its own production.

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Iraq is boosting output and exports after decades of economic sanctions and war. The country pumped a then-record 4.43 million barrels a day in January, the International Energy Agency said in a report published last month. Iraq holds the world's fifth-biggest crude oil reserves.

Oil prices have dropped more than 60 per cent in the past two years and are squeezing revenue for the government, which is waging a costly campaign against Islamic State militants who have seized northern sections of the country.

Iraq's oil minister Adel Abdul Mahdi suspended his participation in the cabinet last month, citing disarray in government ministries. Nizar Saleem Numan, who was nominated to replace him, withdrew his candidacy earlier this month, citing a lack of agreement over the make-up of the proposed cabinet.

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