Opec keeps lid on

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The Independent Online
OPEC'S secretary-general said yesterday that the cartel had broken its production quota in March by less than half previous estimates, increasing the chance that its output-limiting agreement will remain intact.

At the end of a meeting of 25 oil ministers in Oman, Dr Subroto said his members supplied about 290,000 barrels per day above the 23.582 million bpd limit set in February, and that in April, 'the figures will be almost equivalent to the ceiling'.

Last week independent estimates put overproduction at between 650,000 and 700,000 bpd, and pointed to Iran as the chief offender. Petroleum Argus said it had pumped 201,000 bpd more than its 3.34 million bpd quota.

This led to a threat from Kuwait to break its limit of 1.6 million bpd. Its capacity is rebuilding after the Gulf war, and is heading for 2.5 million bpd.

According to Dr Subroto, Iran produced 1,000 bpd less than its quota, and Kuwait's oil minister, Ali Ahmed al-Baghli, said he would not now carry out his threat. 'The countries that violated denied it and I am happy with that,' he said.

Peter Gignoux, director of Smith Barney Harris Upham in London, said Opec's figures were calculated on a new basis. 'They have asked us to digest a great deal in terms of new definitions,' he said.