PARIS, AUG. 31 -- Members of the International Energy Agency agreed today to work together to avert oil shortages from the Persian Gulf crisis, but they said the threat to supplies had eased.
Senior officials of the IEA, made up of 21 industrialized nations, said they expected production increases by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to counter the effects of the U.N. boycott of Iraq and Kuwait.
"The situation is much more manageable than would have been the case if there hadn't been the increase in OPEC production," said John Easton, a U.S. Energy Department official.
Their meeting came two days after OPEC agreed that Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and others can pump more oil to make up a shortfall of 4 million barrels a day lost to world markets by the boycott. The United Nations imposed the sanctions after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2.
When the IEA governing board met two weeks ago, industrial nations feared OPEC might be unable to raise production.
"These increases have not only been confirmed by some OPEC countries, but they are already taking place," Easton said, noting oil producers have "a certain amount of self-interest" to do so.
"They are getting a pretty good price these days," Easton said, with light crude selling above $27 a barrel.
The watchdog body said it reserves the option of calling for emergency oil-sharing measures or the use of strategic petroleum stocks if the situation worsens. Officials also renewed their call for conservation.
The IEA's standing group on emergency questions met two weeks ago to discuss worldwide oil stockpiles, prospects for saving oil by switching to other forms of fuel, reining in demand and spare production capacity.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Daniel Bernard, meanwhile, announced France will open talks with the IEA about becoming a full member. He did not say when they would begin.
The agency presently includes all 24 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development except France, Iceland and Finland.
France decided not to join when the group was founded in 1974, fearing the IEA would simply be used to attack OPEC. Its interest has been raised by the group's efforts to limit fallout from the embargo.
French Industry Minister Roger Fauroux said today that France must adopt measures to help the economy through a potentially difficult period ahead.