Saudi, Iran brace for tense OPEC meet over oil supply

Oil bumps up on US inventories decline, WTI pokes back into $65

Oil officials from OPEC and its allies started to arrive in Vienna for this week's meeting, which is expected to be one of the most contentious summits in years, as Iran firmly opposes a Saudi-Russia-led production increase proposal, while a US shale executive urged OPEC to act to prevent oil prices from surging to $100 that will hurt both the cartel and Texas producers as it would dent demand.

Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation are said to be proposing a production boost of 1.5 million bpd, which observers and OPEC sources think is just a starting point for negotiations to settle on a compromise at somewhere between 500,000 bpd and 700,000 bpd.

Brent reached a 3-1/2-year high above $80 a barrel last month but has fallen steadily in recent weeks as Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of OPEC, has signaled it intends to raise production to stabilize prices. But Opec could still agree a last-minute deal on Friday by compromising on a lower output increase below 1 million bpd, Opec sources have said.

"We need to release supply to the market", Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters in Vienna. "Stay tuned." A decision to increase output could be taken with Iran refusing to sign up, as has happened before in Opec.

Crude oil prices have risen 60% in a year to about $75 a barrel due to a combination of factors including healthy demand, supply cut by key producing countries, including members of OPEC and Russian Federation, a sharp drop in Venezuela's output and United States decision to sanction Iran. Sources said Saudi Arabia did not want to be seen as putting too much pressure on Iran and hence Russian Federation could instead try to convince Tehran. The Iranian oil minister noted that he does not expect the oil producer group to reach an agreement to change its output policy in the upcoming meeting.

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Iraq and Venezuela have also opposed a relaxation of production cuts, fearing a slump in prices.

Gulf producers usually aligned with Saudi Arabia - the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain - have also cautioned against a large output increase and signaled they have been rattled by Riyadh's close coordination with Russian Federation, sources have said.

"Iran rejected a potential compromise, saying it won't support even a small increase in oil production".

Zanganeh was due to attend a ministerial committee on Thursday. He said the meeting would tackle over-compliance with oil output cuts and that Iran was "very cooperative".

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