Riyadh committed to stability of oil market

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest producer, said on Monday it is committed to the stability of the oil market after Libya's oil production dropped amid unrest in the North African country.
The government, in a statement carried by the state-run SPA news agency, said the cabinet met and discussed the anti-regime protests shaking Libya "and their repercussion on oil production in that country."
Saudi Arabia "is committed to the stability of the market" and to ensuring that oil supplies remain available, the statement said, adding that the kingdom hopes that Libya's oil production would return to normal soon.
The statements came as China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the nation's largest oil and gas producer, said on Monday it has halted production in crisis-hit Libya and evacuated all its employees from the country.
Other foreign firms operating there have also drastically reduced production in OPEC member Libya -- which has Africa's largest oil reserves and produces about 1.6 million barrels a day of light crude per day.
Meanwhile the European Union's energy commissioner said in Brussels on Monday that Moamer Gathafi's regime no longer controls most of Libya's oil and gas installations.
"There is reason to believe that the majority of the oil and gas fields are no longer under Gathafi's control," Gunther Oettinger told a news conference.
On February 22, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Riyadh would compensate for any oil shortages caused by unrest in the Middle East, but added there was no current shortage.
Saudi Arabia, the cartel's largest producer, pumps around 8.4 million barrels of oil per day, but Naimi said the kingdom still has a spare capacity of another four million bpd.
Iran, OPEC's second-largest oil exporter on Sunday urged cartel members, especially Saudi Arabia, to refrain from any unilateral hike in oil output, saying current crude production was enough to meet any shortages arising over the unrest in Libya.
Oil prices were up in Asia on Monday as unrest spread in the Middle East amid fears that protests shaking several nations from Libya to Oman would worsen.
Crude prices jumped in Asian trade Monday with New York futures again in sight of $100 a barrel after unrest in the oil-rich Middle East broadened, analysts said.
"The unrest in the Middle East and fears that the situation will worsen are still supporting oil prices despite news that Saudi Arabia will increase output," said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore.