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Venezuela criticizes Saudi plan to increase OPEC oil production

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CARACAS (Bloomberg) — Venezuela said it would be premature for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost production now, casting doubt on whether a Saudi Arabian plan to lower prices by boosting supply will be adopted.

"We don't think the market is ready for a boost," said Venezuelan Deputy Oil Minister Bernardo Alvarez at a news conference. "The new barrels we agreed on last month haven't even entered the market yet."

Alvarez's remarks follow remarks by Iranian officials questioning the plan. Alvarez is filling in for OPEC President Ali Rodriguez, who's starting a 16-day tour of OPEC capitals.

Iran and Venezuela, the second- and third-largest OPEC producers, respectively, initially criticized the Saudi plan to boost output by 500,000 barrels a day, though producers have since signaled a willingness to contribute to a further increase.

Venezuela would go along with any decision reached by the organization, Alvarez said, even if that meant boosting output.

Analysts estimate that Venezuela, unlike Saudi Arabia, has little idle capacity to boost its oil production, after the OPEC raised production quotas last month by 708,000 barrels a day.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in recent weeks has criticized countries, including the U.S., for pressuring the organization to release more oil, saying it was time OPEC countries were allowed to derive more profit from their oil.