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OPEC meeting fails to reach production freeze

DOHA , Qatar, April 17 (UPI) — A schism between Saudi Arabia and Iran over oil production ended a meeting of OPEC and other oil-producing countries Sunday to establish a production freeze.

The meeting in Doha, Qatar, was to arrange an agreement by which oil producers would not raise production levels higher than those in January for at least six months. Oil prices rose from $26 per barrel to over $40 per barrel on expectations a deal would occur. The meeting, attended by most OPEC countries and several other oil-producing counties, including Russia, and who collectively account for over half the oil produced on earth, ended a marathon 12-hour session Sunday without an agreement.

A series of delays during the day made it clear an agreement would not be reached.

Diplomats at the meeting said a sticking point was Saudi Arabia’s insistence that Iran, which did not send a representative, adheres to the agreement, Al Jazeera reported. Iran previously announced it would not accept proposals to cap its production until it reaches production levels prior to imposition of recently-removed sanctions, four million barrels of oil per day, and regains some of its lost market share.

Last week, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi defense minister, said his country requires a reciprocal agreement from Iran before it agrees to a freeze, contradicting less severe statements by other Saudi officials.

Some OPEC countries, notably Ecuador and Venezuela, have been particularly hard-hit by the falling prices caused by excess demand. Larger OPEC members, like Saudi Arabia, fear losing customers to non-OPEC countries like the United States.

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