GENEVA, JULY 27 -- OPEC raised its target price for oil from $18 to $21 a barrel today, and its members solemnly pledged that they will no longer surpass their allotted production ceilings "for any reason whatsoever."
The new agreement, although below Iraq's initial demand of $25 a barrel, was seen as a victory for President Saddam Hussein's intimidation campaign launched 10 days ago to prevent Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates from allowing prices to fall by producing above their quotas.
Although the rise in OPEC's average of prices for crude petroleum of different qualities amounted to 17 percent, prices at U.S. gasoline stations will not automatically jump by an equivalent proportion, industry analysts said.
Oil market analysts in the United States said they expect the agreement by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to have little short-term impact on consumers, even assuming that OPEC overcomes its recent pattern of ignoring its own agreements.
Worldwide stocks of oil and gasoline increased more than 3 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year, analysts said, creating an "inventory overhang" likely to depress prices for months. OPEC production cuts could eliminate the surplus by late summer, but at that time, North Sea fields that have been out of production for maintenance will resume operation.
In addition, analysts said, generally slow growth in the world economy is depressing demand. Also, oil discoveries in non-OPEC countries such as Yemen are making available petroleum not subject to OPEC discipline. And within OPEC countries, oil discoveries and new investments in production capacity have added incentives to cheat.
But Saddam's threats of force, backed up by troop movements along Iraq's border with Kuwait, were cited by Arab analysts here as reason to believe that today's agreement on production ceilings will be observed more faithfully than similar pledges in the past.
"These commitments are considered as commitments of the member governments, and for several reasons we have the conviction they will be completely observed by all the member countries," declared Algerian Oil Minister Sadek Boussena, president of the 13-nation cartel.
His Iranian counterpart, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, added that he is "sure 100 percent" that the production quotas will be respected "at this time," apparently alluding to the tension raised by Saddam's military pressure.
Kuwait and Iraq have agreed to open negotiations this weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on several Iraqi demands.
In addition to respect for production quotas, the demands concern a pair of Kuwaiti-ruled islands in the Persian Gulf and compensation for oil that Baghdad says was pumped illicitly from a reserve lying on both sides of the two countries' contested border.
However those negotiations turn out, OPEC emerged from this 87th ministerial conference with a new reality created by Iraq's resort to the threat of force to further its interests within the cartel. A number of other OPEC nations, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, had chafed at overproduction by Kuwait and the UAE, but only Iraq brandished arms in response.
Both Kuwait and the UAE pledged to hold production to 1.5 million barrels a day each, compared to 5.38 million for Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter. The allocations fit into an overall OPEC production quota of 22.491 million barrels a day designed to remain in place until the end of the year, a communique said.
The quotas for Kuwait and the UAE were the same in the last OPEC agreement. But industry analysts have estimated that the two countries were in fact producing close to 2 million barrels a day each, strongly contributing to a drop in prices this spring, which triggered Saddam's anger.
The OPEC reference price, which had stood above $20 a barrel at the beginning of the year, fell below $14 last month. As the crisis broke out in the Persian Gulf following Saddam's threats, the price climbed back sharply, reaching about $17 a barrel in the last week.
North Sea Brent crude, a widely used benchmark, has been trading around $19 a barrel, while the standard U.S. measure, West Texas Intermediate, has been selling slightly higher.
According to reports seeping out during the two days of the closed-door meetings here, the oil ministers readily agreed on the new production quotas, up overall by 400,000 barrels a day from the current accord, which ends this month. But strenuous bargaining and telephone calls to home capitals were necessary before agreement could be reached over the price level, those reports said.
Saudi Arabia, which traditionally has played the leading role in OPEC, held out for limiting the rise from $18 to $20. The chief Saudi argument against Iraq's demand for $25, sources reported, was that pegging the price too high could undermine demand by forcing industrialized nations to cut back consumption and seek alternative energy sources.
Reflecting that debate, as well as Iraq's insistence on strict compliance with quotas, the ministers set up a more detailed mechanism for monitoring production by member countries. Among other things, they decided that members must submit production figures to the OPEC secretariat within seven days after the end of each month.
"The resolution is based on the full commitment that has been expressed by all member governments at the highest level to assure strict adherence to it, including quotas allocated, without allowing any member country to exceed its allocated quota for any reason whatsoever," the communique declared.
If prices rise above the $21 target, it added, the ministers will adjust the production ceiling and reference price at their next scheduled meeting in December. Staff writer Thomas W. Lippman in Washington contributed to this report.