PARIS, Jan 22 (AFP): OPEC, which is to set its production policy for the coming months at the end of January, risks being dragged into a conflict pitting Iran against Western oil consuming nations.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps about 40 per cent of the world's oil, is due to meet on January 31 in Vienna to decide whether or not it should cut its output in the second quarter, when demand usually eases as warmer weather comes in the northern hemisphere.
However, the decision will not be easy to take with oil prices only two dollars away Friday from an all-time high of 70 dollars and amid uncertainty about global oil demand, especially from China.
But OPEC's task could be made all the more difficult as tensions between the West and Iran, the cartel's second biggest producer, heat up over the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.
Tehran has asked OPEC to reduce the cartel's oil production quota by one million barrels per day from April.
"OPEC should not postpone the issue of output reduction. Iran has called for carrying out discussions and making decisions for a one million bpd of oil output cut in the second quarter," Iran's OPEC representative Hossein Kazempour Ardebili told the semi-official news agency Mehr Friday.
"If OPEC continues its current production, the (current) excess two million bpd of oil supply will lead to an excessive stockpile. This is not affecting oil prices at the moment because the demand is high."