Iraqi leaders lobby OPEC's Barkindo for an oil output cut exemption

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq told a top OPEC official on Tuesday it was ready to cooperate in reaching a deal on supply cuts to support oil prices as long as it kept its output at near current levels.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attends a news conference in Kirkuk, Iraq, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed

“We are prepared to cooperate on the correct basis,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, commenting on the visit by OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo to Baghdad.

“We stress the need to exempt Iraq from any agreement that would lower its production,” said a statement from influential Shi’ite cleric Ammar al-Hakim after a meeting with Barkindo.

Hakim is the president of the National Alliance, a coalition of the main Shi’ite political groups including Abadi’s Dawa party. The Shi’ite community form a majority in Iraq.

Barkindo, who is trying to cement an accord on supply cuts that would support sagging oil prices, was in Baghdad ahead of OPEC’s meeting on Nov. 30.

OPEC’s second largest producer after Saudi Arabia, Iraq says it will not cut output because it needs oil money to fight Islamic State. Iraqi officials say it should get the same exemptions as Iran, Nigeria and Libya -- whose crude output has been hit by wars and sanctions.

They have also hinted that they may agree to a cut, but from a higher baseline, which would amount to preserving output at the same level. Iraq says it produces more than OPEC’s estimate.

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“We want oil prices to increase,” Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad. “There was a misunderstanding about the figures.”

Iraq puts its September output at 4.774 million bpd and its production could rise a little in October. OPEC’s secondary sources put it at 4.455 million bpd.

Barkindo met Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi who expressed “support for the efforts of the secretary general”, according to statement on the oil ministry’s website.

Falah al-Amri, head of state oil marketer SOMO, said Iraq will not go back below 4.7 million barrels per day, “not for OPEC, not for anybody else”.

Editing by David Evans/Ruth Pitchford