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Opec divided on oil output before crucial meeting

[LONDON] The OPEC oil producers cartel will hold one of its toughest and most significant meetings in recent years as, faced with sliding prices, its members must contemplate whether to cut output.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, home to the cartel's headquarters, its dozen member countries are split on what direction to take after a 30 per cent drop in crude prices since June has slashed revenues.

Opec's poorer members, led by Venezuela and Ecuador, have called publicly for a cut in output, while Iran has hinted at a need to reduce production.

But the cartel's Gulf members, led by kingpin Saudi Arabia, are rejecting calls to pump out less oil unless they are guaranteed market share in the highly competitive arena, according to analysts.

Separately, Russia - which is not a member of Opec but is nevertheless a major crude producer - declared Friday that it was considering cutting its oil production in a bid to revive falling prices.

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Opec produces about one third of global crude at more than 30 million barrels per day.

According to the International Energy Agency, which advises on energy policy, Opec pumped out 30.6 million barrels per day in October - above its 30 million bpd target.

"The next meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries... should be the most interesting since the change from individual quotas to a group target in early 2012," said Tom Pugh, an analyst at Capital Economics research group.

"The key driver (behind tumbling prices) has been increasing supply, although other triggers for Brent's slump from $115 in June have included weak demand, particularly from Europe and China, and the strength of the US dollar. The decline has probably also been compounded by panic selling by producers and investors." On Friday, the price of benchmark Brent North crude oil traded at US $79.56 a barrel.


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