Iran Wednesday threw its weight behind a proposed cut in oil exports as a group of OPEC leaders met to consider the plan.
Analysts said the proposal, if implemented, would push oil prices higher.The president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Rilwanu Lukman, who also is oil minister of Nigeria, said before entering the meeting he was hopeful that all OPEC countries would endorse the plan, which he called "a good beginning.".
The proposal was put to an OPEC ministerial committee Tuesday night by a group of seven independent oil-producing nations, including Mexico and China.
The plan calls for members of both groups to reduce oil exports by 5 percent for two months, beginning May 1. It would mean reducing exports by a total of about 800,000 barrels a day.
The idea is to take enough oil off the world market to force prices up to at least OPEC's target level of $18 a barrel.
OPEC oil currently is selling for between $14 and $16 a barrel and last month was slightly lower than that.
The six OPEC ministers meeting today were to hold another session later in the day with the seven outside producers. All 13 OPEC members then were to convene Thursday to consider the export-cut plan.
Paul Mlotok, an analyst for the investment firm Salomon Brothers Inc. and an observer of the Vienna meetings, said the plan, if implemented, would have "a very positive" effect on the oil market, which has been weakened by excess supplies.
Most the OPEC members represented in today's talks withheld immediate comment on the proposal, which the cartel had solicited.
The seven non-OPEC countries involved in the talks are Mexico, China, Egypt, Angola, Oman, Malaysia and Colombia.
Delegation sources said later that OPEC and the independent producers already were squabbling over terms of the proposal.
Colombia, participating in the talks on the non-OPEC side, indicated it would not join in the export reductions, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.
OPEC officials also had asserted privately that some of the independent producers had inflated the figures for their current exports in order to minimize the impact on their actual sales, these sources said.