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OPEC Calls Emergency Meeting

March 25, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ OPEC ministers plan to gather next week for emergency talks about pledges to restrain oil production in an effort to push crude prices higher.

Traders are skeptical that the oil-producing nations, including OPEC and non-OPEC countries, can live up to recent promises to slash output by up to 2 million barrels a day.

The pledges by individual oil exporters, including heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico, have come to just a little more than half that amount, and experts say it remains uncertain whether each country will actually cut as much as it says.

But news of the emergency meeting, announced Wednesday by Rilwanu Lukman, secretary-general of the 11-nation by Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, gave a lift to oil prices in the futures markets.

Brent crude oil to be delivered in May was up 61 cents, settling at $15.14 per barrel, after falling 38 cents a barrel at the opening on London’s International Petroleum Exchange.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude oil for May delivery was up 56 cents, settling at $16.48 per barrel, in late afternoon.

Prices had fallen more than 50 cents a barrel Tuesday, giving up much of the gains oil had shown Monday as producer after producer announced planned production cuts.

Oil prices took a sharp tumble in winter after OPEC’s ill-judged decision in November to raise its output by 10 percent. The increase occurred just as world demand for crude was slowing because of the Asian economic crisis and the mild weather in key North American and European heating oil markets.

An OPEC committee that monitors the group’s compliance with its production agreements had already been scheduled to meet Monday at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The ministers apparently decided the time for a full meeting was right, after the deals announced earlier in the week.

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