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OPEC Remains Deadlocked on Formula to Boost Crude Prices

Associated Press

OPEC inched ahead in a second day of oil talks Thursday but fell short of ending a deadlock over how to drive up prices, officials said.

Although no agreement was reported, officials said a majority of the ministers were set on an attempt to raise oil prices to a range of $17 to $20 a barrel by year-end. The current range for widely traded crudes is $11 to $14 a barrel.

“They are making some progress in the right direction,” James Audu, OPEC’s chief spokesman, said after Thursday’s only session. He declined to answer any questions about the deliberations, which were recessed until today.

Stung by the collapse of oil prices, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is trying to agree on a way to limit its production in hopes of driving prices back up. The key sticking points are deciding what price to strive for and what level of production is needed to achieve it. If such an accord is reached, OPEC then will have to live up to the limits, a discipline that repeatedly has proved difficult in recent years of weak demand.

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Libya’s oil minister, Fawzi Shakshuki, told reporters the meeting had discussed all aspects of production control and prices.

Asked if any consensus had been reached, he replied: “We just started.”

The ministers held informal contacts during the afternoon and planned to take an evening boat cruise around the Brioni archipelago of idyllic islands off the northern Yugoslav coast.

Even Iranian Oil Minister Gholamreza Aghazadeh was less provocative in his brief remarks to reporters. “We are here all together to have a unanimous decision,” he said.

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