Iraq ready to freeze oil output at January levels pending deal - source

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq is ready to commit to freezing its oil production at January levels if a deal is reached among OPEC and non-OPEC countries, an Iraqi oil ministry source said on Tuesday.

“Iraq is with any decision that contributes to propping up oil prices,” the source said.

Top oil exporters Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to freeze output levels but said the deal was contingent on other producers joining in - a major sticking point with Iran absent from the talks and determined to raise production.

The Saudi, Russian, Qatari and Venezuelan oil ministers announced the proposal after a previously undisclosed meeting in Doha. It could become the first joint OPEC and non-OPEC deal in 15 years, aimed at tackling a growing oversupply of crude and helping prices recover from their lowest in over a decade.

Iraq’s oil ministry said on Tuesday production hit a record high in January, with crude output from all the country’s fields, including those controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), averaging 4.775 million barrels per day (bpd).

It said earlier in the month that production from southern fields, excluding KRG-controlled fields, had dropped to 3.9 million bpd in January from 4.13 million bpd the previous month, itself a record high for the southern fields alone.

The KRG does not disclose production figures for fields in the autonomous northern region and the disputed Kirkuk field, which is operated by Iraq’s state-run North Oil Co but has been under Kurdish control since June 2014. It has said exports via pipeline to Turkey rose to an average of 601,811 bpd in January.

Exports via the pipeline increased steadily last year as the Kurds cut allocations to Iraq’s state oil marketing firm SOMO from June, ramping up their own independent crude sales in an effort to tackle an acute economic crisis.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday suggested a deal on sharing oil and revenues between Baghdad and Erbil could be revived if the KRG stopped selling oil independently.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by David Goodman and Dale Hudson