AMSTERDAM, May 23 -- Saudi Arabia has assured the United States that it would supply up to 2 million barrels a day in additional crude oil if the market demands it, the U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Sunday.
Saudi Arabia has pledged to pump an additional 600,000 barrels a day starting in June, lifting its daily output to 9.1 million barrels, Abraham told reporters at an Amsterdam hotel after meeting privately with Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi.
"He also stated that going forward they will meet all requests up to their full capacity of 10.5 million barrels a day. I think this was a very important comment on his part," Abraham said.
Oil prices have soared above $40 a barrel in recent weeks because of fears about instability in Iraq and other oil-rich Gulf countries, bottlenecks in gasoline production at U.S. refineries, and an unforeseen burst in global demand, particularly from China and the United States.
The 11-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supplies about a third of the world's crude, has come under intense pressure from the United States and other oil-importing countries to boost output to calm markets and reduce prices. In New York, finance ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrial nations on Sunday urged oil-exporting countries to boost production.
Saudi Arabia is OPEC's most influential member and it has the ability to pump more oil quickly. Abraham met with Naimi during a three-day conference of energy producing and consuming nations.
The Saudi Oil Ministry proposed Friday that OPEC boost its production ceiling by 2 million barrels a day, or 8.5 percent. It also pledged to raise its own output to at least 9 million barrels in June.
Although OPEC expressed concern about the sharp rise in oil prices, it said Saturday it was deferring a decision about increasing its ceiling until it meets June 3 in Beirut.
Naimi's assurances to Abraham were the most explicit Saudi commitment to push production to a higher level since oil prices recently reached $40 per barrel.