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Iraq Balks at Joining OPEC Cuts, Making Oil Output Deal Harder

  • Country says it pumped 4.7 million barrels a day in September
  • OPEC cuts shouldn’t be at Iraq’s expense: Minister Al-Luaibi

OPEC’s second-largest producer threw an obstacle in the group’s path toward a final deal to stabilize oil markets when Iraq balked at joining efforts to trim output to prop up crude prices.

Iraq should be exempted from cutting production because it’s embroiled in a war with Islamic militants, Oil Minister Jabber Al-Luaibi said Sunday at a news conference in Baghdad. The country currently produces more than 4.7 million barrels a day it pumped in September, and Iraq’s output could rise higher still as the government urges international companies to boost production at its fields, he said. The minister disputed Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries figures that peg Iraqi output at less than 4.2 million barrels daily.

“We are with OPEC policy and OPEC unity,” Al-Luaibi said. “But this should not be at our expense.” A meeting in Algeria last month of the group’s 14 members stretched to seven hours as Iraq argued over the level of production that should be used as a baseline for setting quotas.

OPEC is trying to woo other producers to join in the group’s first output cuts in eight years, a policy shift that members agreed to last month in Algiers. Crude plunged to a 12-year low in January, hammering the budgets of producers from Venezuela to Saudi Arabia. The price slide led OPEC to abandon its two-year-old Saudi-led policy of allowing members to pump as much as they could in an...