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Qatar joins oil-price leapfrog

Qatar joined other Persian Gulf nations Wednesday in raising the price of its crude oil by $2 a barrel, retroactive to May 1, raising onshore crude to $31.42, offshore crude to $31.23.

Iran is now the only Gulf country that has not matched Saudi Arabai, which increased the price of its light crude $2 last week, to $28 a barrel.

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The United Arab Emirates raised its crude oil price $2 to $31.65 a barrel Tuesday and was promptly followed by Kuwait, Iraq, and Venezuela. Indonesia, libya, and Algeria put up their prices after the Saudi action on May 14.

The price "leapfrogging" by the members of the 13-nation Oranization of Petroleum Exporting Countries appeared to have upset Saudi Arabia's attempt to reunify the oil prices.

The main obstacle to a return to OPEC price unity was that the Saudi Arabian light crude, the traditional "benchmark," was underpriced in relation to the rest of OPEC oil in the reigning free-for-all pricing system. The latest $2 -a-barrel price rise has left the situation unchanged.

Oil industry exectutives say prospects have now faded for a return to price unity when OPEC ministers next meet, in Algiers on June 9.

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