( AFP )- Iran on Sunday declined to rule out that the oil cartel OPEC would cut production at its next meeting in early March, a move vehemently opposed by oil-consuming countries.
Asked whether the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would cut its output quota at its next meeting in Vienna on March 5, Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari replied:
"We will certainly need to examine the state of the market and also the global oil reserves and then decide."
"It is normal for OPEC to cut its production in March every year," he told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Tehran, referring to the downturn in demand following the end of winter in the northern hemisphere.
OPEC earlier this month at an extraordinary meeting in Vienna left its official daily output ceiling at 29.67 million barrels of oil.
The freeze came despite US calls for an output increase to help bring down high oil prices that Western countries fear will stunt economic growth and fuel inflation.
US President George W. Bush has personally called on OPEC and its kingpin Saudi Arabia to hike output in response to the continued strength in prices.
Oil prices remain solid at around 95 dollars a barrel after striking a high above 100 dollars at the start of the year, despite fears of a US recession.
But Iran and its fellow US foe and close ally Venezuela have openly mulled defying the United States by cutting production in March amid concerns about the effects of a US economic slowdown on oil prices.