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Business News

Opec agrees to keep oil output unchanged

Opec ministers have agreed at their Vienna conference to leave oil production levels broadly unchanged, and to focus instead on stopping individual members from producing above their quotas. The 12-nation organisation, comprising major producers such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran, has seen oil prices decline from a peak last July of $147 a barrel to around $40 now. Many have said that they do not regard this price as compatible with long-term needs, while the oil companies such as BP have suggested the $60 to $80 range is sustainable.

Even so, the news will come as a relief to hard-pressed net oil importers form the US to China, as the collapse in the price of oil as been one of the few encouraging signs during the current downturn.

Opec members are still overshooting their joint daily target level of just under 25 million barrels by more than 800,000 barrels a day.

"We have urged our member countries to comply," Opec Secretary-General Abdalla el-Badri said. "We have an overhang of 800,000 to 900,000 barrels. If we have more compliance, we can reduce it further."

The ministers agreed to meet on 28 May to review prices and supply.