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Opec's Badri hopes for positive producer meeting in April, says Iran could join group later

[VIENNA] Iran may join other oil producers planning to freeze production to support prices at a later date, Opec's secretary general said on Monday, since the country is seeking to raise its exports.

Producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and non-members are due to meet on April 17 in Qatar discuss the output freeze. But Iran is seeking to increase exports, following the lifting of Western sanctions in January.

"I hope the result of the meeting will be positive," Abdullah al-Badri said at a news conference in Vienna.

"They are not objecting to the meeting but they have some conditions for the production and maybe in the future they will join the group," he said of Iran.

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The comments are a further sign that Iran's position will not derail a wider agreement on the output freeze. Gulf oil exporters including Saudi Arabia had previously maintained that all major producers should participate.

Mr Badri said he hoped oil prices, which on Monday were trading at above US$41 a barrel, up from a 12-year low near US$27 in January, had bottomed out and would rise further if a supply overhang could be erased.

The "price going up, I hope this trend will continue," he said.

"I don't expect the price will go high but I think it will go to a moderate level."

"At this time, the only problem I see is the overhang above five-year average of stocks, about 300 million barrels. If we are able to get rid of this 300 million barrels, the overhang, then the price will come back to normal."

Some Opec delegates have said further action including a supply cut could follow the freeze deal by the end of the year. Mr Badri, asked if a cut was needed, said it was too early to say.

"Let us go to the freeze and see what will happen, then we will talk about any other steps in the future," he said.