From: Reuters
Published January 6, 2008 04:04 AM

Market determines oil prices: Saudi Arabia

By Souhail Karam

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Sunday that the rise in oil prices to a record high had been determined by market forces.

"The market fixes the price of oil," Naimi told reporters at an energy conference in Riyadh when asked to comment on oil's surge to a record above $100 last week.

Naimi declined further comment on the price or what the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would decide at its next meeting on February 1 in Vienna. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter and the most influential voice in OPEC.

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U.S. crude hit a record of $100.09 a barrel on Thursday. High energy costs have caused concern among some members of OPEC about the potential impact on the global economy. But ministers say there is little they can do to tame the price, which is driven by political tension and speculators and not supply and demand fundamentals.

OPEC President and Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil said on Saturday that the steady rise in prices was due to tension in Pakistan, escalating violence in Nigeria and a fall in oil inventories in the United States.

The world had sufficient oil supplies for now and no decision could be made to increase production before the next OPEC meeting, Algerian state news agency APS quoted Khelil as saying.

Libya's top oil official, Shokri Ghanem, said last week that the producer group could do little about $100 oil as most members were already pumping flat out.

OPEC, supplier of more than a third of the world's oil, decided to keep output steady at its last meeting in December, rejecting calls from consumer countries for more supply to ease high prices.

(Reporting by Souhail Karam; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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