Ministers of the 13 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries gathered here this weekend for another crisis meeting amid strengthening reports that the benchmark price of Arabian light crude oil might be lowered.
But oil ministers of Algeria, Libya and Iraq, who were among the first arrivals for the 73rd regular meeting of the conference, all insisted that the benchmark price must remain the same, special correspondent John Parry reported.
"The question of a change in the benchmark price is not even on the agenda," Algerian Energy Minister Belkacem Nabi told reporters upon his arrival. Nabi arrived early to attend a meeting of the monitoring committee, which checks conformity with pricing and production regulations.
The benchmark price has come under attack during the past six months following price cuts by Norway and Britain, neither an OPEC member.
Mana Said Otaiba, oil minister of the United Arab Emirates, said after a meeting of the monitoring committee, which he heads, that the committee would recommend holding the line on both the $29 a barrel benchmark price and and 16 million barrel a day production limit imposed in October.
Meanwhile, Youssef Ibrahim, chief oil reporter of The Wall Street Journal, said his accreditation to cover OPEC had been suspended temporarily because of an article he wrote describing lavish spending by delegates to OPEC meetings, Reuter news service reported.
Reuter also quoted diplomats in Tehran as saying Iran has halted virtually all imports because of a sharp fall in its oil exports and dangerously low foreign exchange reserves. Iranian banking sources confirmed that the Central Bank issued an internal order last week severely restricting letters of credit for imports.