OPEC oil ministers today canceled a scheduled March 13-14 emergency meeting here and instead agreed to "informal consultations" next week in Abu Dhabi on the worldwide petroleum glut that has sent prices falling.
The secretariat for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna told Swiss authorities that the Abu Dhabi meeting would determine whether sufficient accord exists to justify a formal ministerial meeting. A formal meeting, OPEC said, would probably be the last weekend of March.
In Doha, Qatar, meanwhile, Algerian Oil Minister Belkacem Nabi said that Arab oil ministers will meet this weekend to discuss an emergency meeting.
OAPEC, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, which coordinates Arab oil industry activities but has no price-fixing role in OPEC, is due to meet Saturday or Sunday, resuming a session abandoned in December when Libya blocked a Tunisian application to join. Tunisian officials say Libya has dropped its objections.
Recession and conservation measures have prompted the oil surplus, and some oil experts are expecting the price to be cut from the base of $34 a barrel for Saudi Arabian light crude to $30 or even $28.
Persian Gulf oil analysts say the only alternative to a cut in prices is a sharp reduction in production.
In a surprise announcement tonight, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ali Khalifa Sabah said Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, had cut its production ceiling to 7.5 million barrels per day from 8.5 million from the beginning of this month.