Saudis Vow to Keep Crude Markets Well Oiled

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- OPEC's leading producer, Saudi Arabia, vowed on Monday to keep oil markets well-supplied in order to sustain world economic growth.

"Number one in our mind is making sure there are no shortages -- that the oil market is stable and well-supplied because we recognize its impact on economic growth," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters.

Naimi was speaking as oil prices surged close to post-Iraq war highs following a decision last month by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries last month to cut production. U.S. crude traded on Monday at $36.20 a barrel.

Prices, well above OPEC's official $22-$28 target range have drawn complaints from the United States, the world's biggest energy consumer.

Naimi, speaking after meeting Norwegian Oil Minister Einar Steensnaes, sought to ease concern.

"It is extremely important that the market remains stable. The world's economic growth depends on a very reliable supply of energy," he said.

"So here are two major producers that are ... making sure there are no shortages or any curtailment to economic growth due to shortages," Steensnaes said.

OPEC in February agreed to curb quota-busting of about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) and reduce official supply limits by another one million bpd from April 1.

The Saudi oil minister declined to speculate on whether OPEC, which controls half the world's oil exports, would informally sanction pumping above the group's official limits to curb high oil prices.

"We are looking at the behavior of the market and one thing I can tell you is there will be no shortages in the market," said Naimi.