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As OPEC Ponders Production Ceiling, Members Complain About Oil Prices Eds: Lead Prospects

November 21, 1995

As OPEC Ponders Production Ceiling, Members Complain About Oil Prices Eds: Lead Prospects Uncertain; OPEC meeting scheduled to begin 9 a.m. EST

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ OPEC meets today to debate how much oil to pump next year, with some ministers grumbling about the price and analysts warning it may fall if members don’t stop cheating on their quotas.

``For sure, I’m very concerned about the price,″ said Abdulla Al-Attiyah, Qatar’s oil minister.

OPEC has been getting about $16 per barrel for its oil, with the target price of $21 nowhere in sight.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has been unable to find ways to get non-OPEC producers, such as oil companies in the North Sea, to cut back.

OPEC members fear they could be left out as more oil from non-OPEC sources comes on line at a faster pace than the growth in world demand for oil _ leaving little room for increased OPEC production without hurting prices.

This has led to a focus on what the cartel might do about members who overproduce, a problem OPEC has never solved.

For now, most fingers are pointing at Venezuela, believed to be producing around 2.7 million barrels a day. Venezuela’s OPEC quota is about 2.36 million barrels a day.

The OPEC ceiling is 24.52 million barrels a day, but experts believe the real total is about 900,000 barrels higher _ with Venezuela responsible for more than one-third of the overproduction.

Venezuela’s oil minister Erwin Arrieta denied breaking the rules.

``Absolutely none of the ministers has accused Venezuela as a violator,″ Arrieta told reporters Monday night. Arrieta is current president of OPEC.

Analysts have long predicted that OPEC would roll over its production ceiling at the winter meeting, with the main question being whether the group would set the ceiling for six months or a full year.

The oil ministers have had little to say about their strategy since arriving in Vienna, but several said there would be matters they needed to discuss before the ceiling could be rolled over.

OPEC members are Algeria, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

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