Saudi campaign for OPEC output rise gathers pace

VIENNA, Sept 11, 2007 (AFP) – OPEC ministers head into crunch talks about the cartel’s output on Tuesday, with signs that the group might bend to the will of Saudi Arabia and increase production. It has an output target of 25.8 million barrels, but the 10 members constrained by output limits are estimated to be producing almost a million more barrels a day than this. Oil prices in New York closed within striking distance of their record high of 78.77 dollars on Monday, with analysts warning that inaction by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries could send prices above 80 dollars.

A majority of ministers have rejected pressure from consuming nations for higher supplies, but the Saudi kingdom, the biggest producer in the 12-member cartel, may still prevail with a campaign for an output increase of 500,000 barrels per day, analysts believe.

In an indication that some members were willing to concede to an increase, Kuwaiti Acting Oil Minister Mohammad al-Olaim told reporters on Monday: “We have to take our responsibility as producers.”

He added: “We have to take care of them (consumers), as they take care of us.”

Kuwait had previously dismissed demands for a production