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Opec leash on output

Osaka, Sept 19 (Reuters): Opec on Thursday agreed to maintain severe restraints on oil production for the fourth quarter to keep crude prices riding high.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries left supply limits on hold despite worries among consumer nations about the impact of high energy costs on the world economy.

Cartel cutbacks, in place since January, have combined with the threat of a US war against Iraq to push benchmark US crude close to $ 30 a barrel—a setback for industrialised powers trying to sustain a shaky economic recovery.

“Prices are OK for producers and consumers,” insisted Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi.

“This is not a decision we took lightly. We had to take account of many uncertainties including Iraq.”

Producers will meet again on December 12 to review policy for the first quarter of next year, by which time any US plans for military action may be clearer.

Even in the event of war it seems there is no guarantee they will step in to prevent a price spike.

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