Iran says low oil prices will not last long

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attends a ceremony in the courtyard of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, France, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Michel Euler

PARIS (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that oil prices would not stay low for long as producers restore market balance.

“The price of oil is at a low level ... I don’t think it will last in the long term ... The pressure on oil-producing nations means balance will be restored in the short term,” Rouhani, whose country is the third-largest producer in OPEC, said at the French Institute of International Relations.

Pragmatist Rouhani arrived in France on Wednesday on the second leg of a state visit to Europe after three days in Italy. Iran is pushing to boost oil exports now that international sanctions against it have been lifted.

Reiterating Iran’s official stance, Rouhani blamed Shi’ite Iran’s Sunni regional rival Saudi Arabia for the drop in oil prices, which have halved since last May as global supply outstrips demand.

Oil futures surged on Wednesday after non-OPEC member Russia indicated there was a possibility of cooperation with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb output and thus raise the crude price, currently near $33 a barrel.

Nikolai Tokarev, head of Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, said on Wednesday Russian officials had decided they should talk to Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries about output cuts aimed at bolstering crude prices.

But Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Tehran had not been contacted by Moscow over oil output cuts.

"I have not received anything," Zanganeh said at a Franco-Iranian summit in Paris, adding that Iran would sign an agreement with French oil major Total TOTF.PA.

“We will sign an agreement with Total (this) afternoon,” he said, without elaborating. Total declined to comment.

Reporting by John Irish and Bate Felix in Paris; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Dale Hudson and Jason Neely