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Mon 18 Jan 2010 09:54 PM

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OPEC unlikely to cut supply at March meet - Qatar

Supply targets remained unchanged throughout 2009 after record cuts in 2008.

OPEC is unlikely to cut oil supply at its next meeting in March, Qatar's oil minister said on Monday.

US crude traded at $78.45 a barrel on Monday, within the $75 to $80 a barrel range that top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members have said was fair to both producers and consumers.

Speaking at an industry event, Qatar's Abdullah al Attiyah said: "I don't think OPEC will cut in its March meeting."

Fellow core Gulf OPEC member Kuwait said last week there would be no need for any change in March, describing the oil price, then at around $82, as "fantastic".

But the oil minister of the UAE sounded a more cautionary note on Monday. He described oil prices as reasonable, but said supply outstripped demand.

Speaking to reporters, Mohammed al Hamli said: "I think the market is oversupplied,"

Oil stocks were high, at around 58 to 59 days of forward demand, he said. That was about 6 days more than the 52 to 53 days OPEC would like.

Oil inventories built up as demand slumped during the economic slowdown in 2008 and 2009.

Brimming oil storage has long been a concern of OPEC members. But with oil prices at levels that most in OPEC see as acceptable, ministers have decided against cutting supply further as a way of reducing inventories.

The producer group kept supply targets unchanged throughout 2009 after making record supply cuts in 2008 to address a slide in demand and prices with the onset of the global economic slowdown and a corresponding fall in energy consumption.

US crude hit a 15 month high near $84 a barrel last week, up from around $32 in December 2008.

The Paris based International Energy Agency saw OPEC as unlikely to change output at its March meeting, an IEA official said on Monday. IEA Deputy Executive Director Richard Jones said that the market was "pretty well supplied"

Qatar and Turkey have continued to study the feasibility of a gas pipeline between the two countries, Attiyah said, adding it was too early to give any further details on the project.

The two countries said in September they had formed a team to start work on the project to pipe Qatari gas to Turkey.

Qatar is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), but only has one functioning pipeline export project, which takes its gas to the UAE. The tiny state sits on the world's third largest gas reserves.

Qatar was ready to supply more LNG to Britain if demand warranted, Attiyah said.

Gas supply in Britain was tight earlier this month as the country faced cold weather. Qatar already has long-term contracts to supply Britain from new massive LNG projects that started up last year. (Reuters)

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