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OPEC Threatens Additional Oil Output Cuts

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could further reduce oil output if moves last month to slash production do not bolster plummeting prices, says OPEC president.

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- OPEC nations could further reduce oil output if moves last month to slash production do not bolster plummeting oil prices, OPEC president Chakib Khelil said Saturday.

Khelil, who is also Algeria's energy minister, said an OPEC report would show by the end of the month whether all cartel members have enforced the daily 1.5 million barrel reduction decided in October.

He said he hoped the production cut would raise and stabilize prices at a level manageable for both oil-exporting countries and consumer nations.

Reasonable prices should range "between $70 and $90 per barrel," said Khelil, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Oil prices have traded at around $60 a barrel this week. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude for December settled at $61.04 a barrel on Friday, but the contract dropped below $60 in overnight electronic trading for the first time in 19 months. That was down dramatically from record highs of more than $140 a barrel in July.

But predicted recession in the U.S. and Europe means demand for oil will continue to decline, Khelil told a news conference in Algiers, adding that rising energy needs in China and India would not be enough to boost oil prices.

OPEC countries "will therefore probably continue to reduce their production, in order to maintain a balance between supply and demand, at least through the beginning of 2009," Khelil said.

This policy is not fully decided yet, and Khelil said further output decisions would likely depend on how markets react to the current cut once it is fully enforced.

The minister is preparing to host OPEC's yearly summit, due in the western Algerian town of Oran on Dec. 17.

Price stability is crucial to countries like Algeria, where more than 95 percent of revenue comes from hydrocarbon exports. The North African nation has the eighth-largest reserves of natural gas, and ranks 14th in oil reserves.

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