TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran appeared Wednesday to back a plan laid out by four influential oil producers to cap their crude output if others do the same, though it offered no indication that it has any plans to follow suit itself.
The agreement reached in Doha the day before by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela is aimed at stabilizing global oil prices, which recently plunged to less than $30 a barrel, a 13-year low.
But Iran is keen to ramp up exports to regain market share now that sanctions related to its nuclear program have been lifted under a landmark agreement.
“Iran supports any measure to boost oil prices,” Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said after talks with his counterparts from Iraq, Venezuela and Qatar.
“The decision taken to freeze the production ceiling of OPEC and non-OPEC members to stabilize and boost prices is also supported by us,” he added, in comments posted on the ministry‘s website late Wednesday.
Iran’s envoy to OPEC, Mahdi Asali, had earlier blamed the fall in prices on oversupply, and said it was up to Saudi Arabia and others to cut production. He said the four nations that participated at the Doha gathering could stabilize oil prices on their own -- if they cut their production by 2 million barrels a day.
“These countries increased their production by 4 million barrels when Iran was under sanctions,‘’ Asali was quoted as saying by the Shargh daily. “Now it‘s primarily their responsibility to help restore balance on the market. There is no reason for Iran to do so.”
The four countries made their announcement following an unexpected meeting in the Qatari capital that pointedly did not include Iran. They agreed to act only if other producers made similar freezes.
Iran has previously said it hopes to put another 500,000 barrels a day on the market. Figures from the International Energy Agency show it pumped 2.9 million barrels daily in December, before sanctions were lifted.
Iran used to export 2.3 million barrels per day, but its crude exports fell to 1 million in 2012, when sanctions were tightened.
On Tuesday, Iran’s oil minister said it had no intention of giving up its share of the market. Zanganeh acknowledged that global markets are “oversupplied,” but said Iran “will not overlook its quota,” according to comments carried by his ministry‘s Shana news service.
Even with Iran’s cooperation, it was unclear if the Doha plan would be enough to put a floor under prices.
The United Arab Emirates‘ energy minister, Suhail Mohamed al-Mazrouei, refused on Wednesday to discuss the Doha proposal after giving a keynote address at a Dubai conference in which he mentioned low oil prices only in passing.
“I will only talk about this conference,” he said, before smiling and walking away from reporters’ shouted questions.
He later took to Twitter to say his country‘s oil policy “is open to cooperate with all producers toward mutual interest of the market stability and we are optimistic on the future.”
Kuwait, another Gulf OPEC member, signaled it was willing to go along with the Doha plan.
Anas al-Saleh, who is Kuwait’s deputy premier, finance minister and acting oil minister, said in a statement that his country was committed to the proposal if others join in.
“Kuwait hopes the agreement would provide a positive atmosphere for oil prices, and for the market to regain balance, and calls on all to support stability of markets,” he said. (AP)