Saudi Arabia denies seeking to push up oil prices

Riyadh: Fluctuations in production depend on demand

RIYADH - The world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia denied on Monday that a five percent cut in its crude output was aimed at boosting prices on international markets.
"Fluctuations in production depend on domestic demand, which is seasonal in nature as it peaked in the summer before declining during the last quarter of the year," oil ministry adviser Ibrahim Mehanna said.
He said it was "totally wrong" to link the fall in Saudi oil output to an attempt to raise prices.
"Several challenges to growth in the eurozone and fears about the US financial crisis have affected the demand for oil," he said.
He said Riyadh was "fully prepared to respond to these changes and reaffirms its commitment to meet the demands of its customers."
"We are still firmly committed to ensuring the stability of the oil market."
Analyst Matt Smith of Schneider Electric said on Monday after markets opened in New York that a reported five percent drop in December Saudi oil production -- about nine million barrels per day -- was to "help support prices" by reducing supply.
Global oil prices rose on Monday after the completion of a major US pipeline expansion project that will cut oversupplied inventories in the United States, the world's biggest consumer.
In midday London deals, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February added 62 cents to $111.26 a barrel.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February or West Texas Intermediate (WTI), gained 66 cents to $94.22 a barrel.
The Seaway Pipeline expansion completed on Friday means 400,000 barrels of crude oil can now be brought each day from the oversupplied midcontinent market around Cushing, Oklahoma, to refiners on the Gulf Coast.