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Gulf states hint at possible oil price war

Gulf oil states are threatening fellow OPEC members Iran, Libya, Nigeria, and Venezuela with a possible production and price war.

In response to a world oil glut, the four nations have discounted their oil below the cartel's set prices and raised production above OPEC quotas.

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''No one can beat us in the race of lowering oil prices or in increasing our production,'' warns Mana Saeed al-Otaiba, United Arab Emirates oil minister and chairman of OPEC's production monitoring committee.

A similar but less specific warning was issued last month at a meeting of Gulf oil ministers. But industry observers here say it is unlikely the states will wage such a war because it might send oil prices into a tailspin.

Says Dr. Otaiba: ''I prefer to just give hints to things which we want. I am not in a position now to tell you exactly what we are going to do because we'd rather remain hopeful to the last moment.''

He says he does not anticipate any action by the Gulf states before the next OPEC meeting expected in December.

Dr. Otaiba says he expects the demand for OPEC crude (currently about 19 million barrels a day) to rise in the coming months to 20 to 21 million barrels a day. He said when that happens new quotas could be issued for each OPEC member , possible making everyone in OPEC ''happy.''

But he added that he felt the market would remain sluggish for ''a major part of next year.''

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