LONDON, Mar 8 (AFP): World oil prices eased Wednesday after further indications that OPEC would maintain rather than cut its production quotas later in the day following talks in Vienna, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, gave up 22 cents to 61.36 dollars per barrel in electronic deals.
In London, the price of Brent North Sea crude for April delivery slid nine cents to 61.08 dollars per barrel.
Meanwhile, the energy ministers of Kuwait and Qatar said Wednesday that they believed the consensus among OPEC members was to maintain the cartel's oil output quota at its meeting here later.
"It looks like we have an agreement" to maintain the quota, Kuwait's Energy Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah told journalists when asked if there was a consensus to keep OPEC's official output ceiling at 28.0 million barrels per day.
He had earlier said: "As Kuwait, I believe that the resolution Wednesday is to rollover with our production."
Another report from Vienna adds: OPEC ministers gathered in Vienna Tuesday on the eve of a meeting expected to see the cartel maintain its oil output quota despite a call by major crude exporter Venezuela to cut production.
OPEC's key advisory committee recommended Tuesday that the organization maintain its current output ceiling of 28.0 million barrels per day in response to unrest in key member producers, OPEC President Edmund Daukoru said.
The 11-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has kept its near 25-year-high output quota for eight months, looks set to preserve it for a while longer because circumstances in OPEC members Iran and Nigeria are seen to have driven up oil prices.
The OPEC meeting Wednesday comes at a time of market concern that Iran, the second-biggest producer of crude in OPEC, might slash its oil exports if it comes under UN sanctions over its nuclear programme.
The UN atomic energy agency met in Vienna Tuesday amid a US-Russian rift over a compromise plan that could head off UN Security Council action against Iran.
Daukoru, who is also Nigeria's oil minister, admitted that if OPEC were to act strictly in response to factors of supply and demand, the cartel should be trimming its output. "But there are simply too many geopolitical issues at this very time so we (the committee members) have agreed to roll over (production quotas) and to monitor closely if there are any further developments," he told journalists.
Meanwhile United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Mohammad bin Dhaen al-Hamli said the current quota as "adequate".
Another report from Singapore adds: Oil prices eased in Asian trade Wednesday after the OPEC cartel indicated it would maintain rather than cut current production quotas, dealers said.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) key advisory committee was to meet in Vienna Wednesday to discuss crude production levels.