Saudi Arabia: US 'not in a position to tell OPEC what to do'

President Donald Trump's call for OPEC to keep oil flows unrestricted drew criticism from Saudi Arabia. The oil cartel convened in Vienna to discuss cutting output, in a bid to bring prices back from a two-month slump.

Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih said ahead of a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Thursday that the cartel did not "need permission from anyone to cut" production.

The comments came a day after US President Donald Trump said he wanted OPEC to keep production high to ensure low oil prices.

The US, Al-Falih said, "is not in a position to tell us what to do."

OPEC members are meeting in Vienna for two-day talks to discuss ways to raise international oil prices. Crude prices have slid since October amid high rates of production in countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia.

At the end of the first day of talks on Thursday, Al-Falih told reporters that he was "not confident" that OPEC members would be able to agree on a reduction in output, saying that there were still debates about the distribution of the cuts.

Since October, the price of both benchmark US crude and the standard for internationally traded oil has fallen some 22 percent.

Read more: Riyadh between an OPEC rock and Trump's hard place

Looping Russia in

To raise prices, OPEC members, who account for more than half of the world's oil output, are evaluating whether to renew their cooperation with Russia and other noncartel producers, or simply slash production further.

Russia and OPEC agreed in 2016 to a coordinated effort to scale back output in an attempt to reduce a surplus in the market, created in large part by the increase in supply from US fracking. The long rally in oil prices lasted until October. Moscow is expected to deliver its decision on further cuts by Friday.

"A million (barrels cut) would be ideal," Al-Falih said. "Ideally, everyone should join equally. I think that's the fair and equitable solution," he added.

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Read more: Qatar exit exposes OPEC's decreasing relevance

According to the International Energy Agency, OPEC daily output stood at 32.99 million barrels in October.

OPEC members will also have to contend with Iran, and discuss whether or not to exempt Iran from having to cut production.

Iran has asked for the exemption. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said that his country "doesn't join any agreement for cutting production because of the special situation Iran faces," a reference to US sanctions against the country's oil industry.

jcg/amp (AFP, Reuters)

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OPEC considers output cuts in Vienna

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