Opec talks fall behind schedule

OPEC OIL ministers meeting in Vienna last night postponed a meeting at the last minute, apparently because they had not agreed how to boost prices. The meeting had been due to begin at 6pm but bilateral talks were still ongoing.

OPEC's 11 members are falling short even of pledged cuts of 2.6 million barrels a day, which are expected to be extended to the end of 1999, with estimates of the actual reduction as low as 2.16 million. Infighting among Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran is likely to prevent the deeper output cuts which analysts said are necessary to ease an oil glut and a 38 per cent slump in oil prices in the past year.

Oil prices were little changed yesterday, after falling 12 per cent in the past two weeks, with January Brent crude oil up 2 cents at $11.21 a barrel in London.