June 19, 2008 / 1:58 AM / 12 years ago

Venezuela says will not attend Saudi oil meet

Venezuela's oil minister Rafael Ramirez attends the opening ceremony of the first South American Energy council meeting in Caracas, May 8, 2008. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela will not attend a meeting of oil consumers and producers this coming weekend and sees no need to up output, the country’s oil minister said on Wednesday.

The meeting on June 22, organized by top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, seeks ways of cooperating over crude prices that on Monday hit a record high near $140 a barrel.

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters at an oil business event in the Venezuelan oil hub city of Maracaibo that there was also no need for OPEC to meet before a scheduled September gathering of the group’s members to discuss prices.

“We will take our decisions over output in the framework of OPEC,” Ramirez said. “We do not think it is necessary to increase production. The production that is being added now is aimed at building inventory.”

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia plans to increase output to 9.7 million barrels per day in July, more than 6 percent above May levels and its highest since 1981, news that has helped tame crude prices slightly in recent days.

But Venezuela, an anti-U.S. price hawk in OPEC and a major supplier to the United States, has no plans to increase its output and would only do so under an OPEC-wide agreement to change production levels, Ramirez said.

The problem of high prices for consumer nations is not due to oil production, Ramirez said. Venezuela and other OPEC members have repeatedly blamed speculation, geopolitical tensions and a weak dollar for driving up the market.

Reporting by Manuel Hernandez, Writing by Saul Hudson; Editing by Michael Urquhart

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