Declaring that Saudi Arabia will fight to restrain oil price increases at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting next week, Saudi Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani said yesterday that his country will continue producing an extra million barrels of oil a day for the first three months of 1980.
U.S. officials privately welcomed Yamani's statement, made in Brussles, that Saudi Arabia would continue producing 9.5 million barrels of oil a day, 1 million barrels above its official celing.
Yamani also said that at the OPEC meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia would not go above the $24 a barrel price level it set on its market crude oil on Thursday.
American and Saudi officials here said that no final decision had been made by Saudi Arabia to continue the production, which was to have ended Dec. 31, but Yamani's statements in the past usually have turned out to be his government's policy.
Yamani's announcement came at a meeting with U.S. businessmen in Brussels and appeared to be the second step of a Saudi effort to go into the OPEC meeting opening Monday in Venezuela in a strong position to counter the militant oil-producing states.
On Thursday, the Saudis, along with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, announced a $6 a barrel price increase, to about $24 a barrel, considerably less than such countries as Nigeria and Libya have proposed.
The decision to continue high production in the face of a near-surplus in world oil supply indicates to ofservers here that Saudi Arabia is prepared to use its vast resources to keep the official price from rising above $24 a barrel.
Yamani said yesterday that he hopes other OPEC members accept the price level set by the Saudis, but "if not, we will say we are not prepared to go over and above this."
He coupled his announcement with a strong recommendation that the Carter administration sharply increase taxes on gasoline and other oil products to cut demand.
He noted that the price of oil to the consumer in the United States is only about $34 a barrel, compared with about $100 a barrel in France and West Germany, where taxes are considerably higher.
In the United States, Yamani said, "product prices were kept artificially below the international level." As a result, he said, increases in the world oil price have had a lesser impact on U.S. consumers "and demand had grown unchecked."
While senior U.S. officials said yesterday that the Carter administration was pleased with Yamani's announcement, there was no official reaction from the White House or State Department. One official source said there would be none until a normal Saudi decision had been communicated to Washington.
When the production ceiling originally was lifted last summer, the formal Saudi announcement came several days after a similar Yamani declaration -- which had immediately been followed by Saudi denials.
The Saudi decision in July to accelerate production as well as a three-month renewal in September came after requests from President Carter for help in stabilizing the world oil supply in the face of tumoil and shortages resulting from reduced output in Iran.
Administration sources would not say yesterday whether Carter had requested Saudi Arabia to continue its high output but one source said the Saudis "knew we were anxious for them to keep their production up."
In addition, one analyst said, a high output is necessary to Saudi Arabia to help that country in its long-term goal of bringing stability to the world oil price structure and close the gap between the official OPEC price and spot market prices, which have ranged more than 50 percent higher.
This analyst said he did not expect to see a cutback in Saudi production "until after they see a real softening in the market."
U.S. officials denied, as they have in the past, that there is any direct linkage between increased Saudi output and more energetic U.S. efforts to bring about solutions to Middle East problems such as Palestinian autonomy and Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem.
Yamani and other Saudis have said in the past that, in return for oil favors, they expect the Carter administration to press for resolution of these two major irritants to the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, which has announced $4 a barrel increase, from a "moderate" bloc within OPEC that has worked toward achieving price discipline.
Three countries -- Nigeria, Libya and Algeria -- have already set their prices at $26 a barrel and Nigeria said earlier this week that it is considering increasing its prices to "at least $30" a barrel in January. Meanwhile oil is selling on the spot market at $40 a barrel and more.