- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

GENEVA (AP) OPEC Secretary General Ali Rodriguez said the organization is not considering production cuts "for now."

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is waiting to see how the oil market reacts to U.S.-led attacks against Taliban rulers in Afghanistan, Mr. Rodriguez said.

"For now we have to wait a little while," Mr. Rodriguez, who was in London yesterday, said in an interview with Venezuela's Union Radio.

He added that OPEC is also considering economic slumps in developed countries.

Mr. Rodriguez's comments came as Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez said yesterday he would be pushing OPEC leaders to "agree on the defense of the price of oil."

He suggested the cartel could reduce crude oil output to boost falling prices.

"A reduction is possible," Mr. Chavez told reporters in Geneva on the first day of a weeklong European tour.

According to the most recent data available, a group of crudes that OPEC monitors fell $1.52 last week, closing at $19.96 a barrel Friday. OPEC has a price band system that requires the group to reduce production by at least 500,000 barrels a day if the OPEC basket stays below $22 a barrel for 10 consecutive days.

The mechanism would have been triggered Friday but the organization ignored it.

In a meeting last month, OPEC decided against production cuts despite sliding oil prices.

The organization said it did not want to aggravate a fragile global economy after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Light, sweet crude for November delivery was trading below $23 a barrel Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, despite rising slightly after Sunday's attacks.

Mr. Chavez said he planned to meet with Mr. Rodriguez, Algerian leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mexican President Vicente Fox.

He spoke after a meeting with World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore.

The two discussed the possibilities of launching a new round of global free-trade negotiations.

OPEC has reduced production three times for a total of 3.5 million barrels a day this year to stop the price slide.

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