OPEC ministers need to figure out how to make room for Iraq to return to the oil market, but they gathered for just a few minutes Wednesday before saying they would meet again Thursday.
OPEC is hoping to let Iraq back into the market without disrupting recent high prices, but analysts say this will be tricky. Iraq, however, is lobbying for the day when it can once again become a major force.Iraq's oil minister, Amer Mohammed Rasheed, came to town talking big, saying he's ready to be back in business by the end of the month, pumping 1.5 million barrels of crude a day.
That's about 400,000 barrels more than other ministers hinted they might like to see in a new production quota for Iraq, which has been banned from exporting any oil since it invaded fellow OPEC member Kuwait in August 1990.
Iraq says it already has customers lined up, and Rasheed said Wednesday the Iraqis are discussing a deal with the Philippines.
Rasheed may have been touting an unrealistic timetable, as Iraq and the United Nations have yet to finalize the fine print on their oil-for-food deal signed last month.
At current prices, Iraq would need to sell about 700,000 barrels of oil a day to gain the $2 billion that the United Nations is offering over a 180-day period to provide food and drugs for Iraqis who have been suffering since their defeat in the Persian Gulf War.