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Iran pulls out, but oil watchers keep hope alive for 'soft' Doha deal

Did the Doha meeting of oil producing countries end before it even began? Not necessarily.

On Saturday, Iran announced that it would not send a representative to the confab, which is being closely watched by analysts for hints on whether OPEC and non-OPEC producers will agree to a freeze of crude output. Given that Saudi Arabia has insisted that any deal include all member countries, Iran's absence was interpreted by some as a death knell for an agreement.

Yet sources in Doha told CNBC say that for several reasons, a "soft deal" on freezing production is still a possibility, even without Iran's involvement. Minus Tehran, oil producers assembled in Doha still account for nearly half of the world's daily output. With the exception of Libya and Iran, all of OPEC is represented at the meeting.

Though Iran's increased production and exports are perhaps the single biggest factor fueling global oversupply, the producers here still have the power to either cap or cut a sizable chunk of production. Although a lid on current levels would be at near record output, it would at least help ensure that more oil isn't put on...