Kuwait drives up its output

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The Independent Online
KUWAIT (Reuter) - Kuwait has lifted oil output to 2 million barrels a day - the highest level since the Iraqi invasion in 1990 - apparently to secure as large an Opec quota as possible when it rejoins the system.

Ali al-Baghli, the oil minister, preparing for a crucial Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna on Saturday at which members are expected to agree to cut output to bolster falling prices, said Kuwait was producing up to 1,988,000 barrels a day, a figure he later revised to 2 million.

Kuwait, which estimates it lost dollars 75bn ( pounds 53bn) in forfeited oil sales and oil sector damage during the Gulf war, has been exempt from Opec quotas since liberation in 1991 while it repairs oil wells and revives production.

But for the first time since the Iraqi invasion, Opec is asking Kuwait to take its share of an output cut to prop up prices.

In Houston, Hisham Nazer, the Saudi oil minister, sharply attacked a recent US proposal to impose a flat dollars 25-a-barrel price on oil imports, with the difference between world oil prices and the dollars 25 price being paid to the federal government.

According to the proposal, the fee would not apply if world oil prices exceed dollars 25 a barrel.

'For us as a major oil exporter to the US and a reliable supplier as well as a long-time friend, such an import fee would harm our exports and downstream investments in the US,' Sheikh Nazer said.

Saudi Arabia, which pumps about 8 million barrels of oil a day, accounted for about 22 per cent of US oil imports in 1992. The US imports 45 per cent of the oil it uses.