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Saudis: Oil will be delivered no matter what

Associated Press

BERLIN -- Saudi Arabia will keep delivering oil no matter what happens in Iraq, the country's oil minister said in an interview published today.

"Oil is no longer a weapon," Ali Naimi was quoted as saying by the German newsmagazine Stern. "A war is looming -- that obviously has consequences for the markets, but there is enough oil."

"We can deliver -- whatever happens," he added.

Saudi Arabia is the most influential member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

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OPEC signaled at a meeting last week that it would pump more oil to make up for any disruption in supply caused by war in Iraq, but decided to keep its official output steady for now.

Saudi Arabia is believed to have as much as 50 million barrels in storage and more en route to other storage facilities. That's enough to replace Iraq's 1.5 million to 2 million barrels a day for about a month.

Iraq has the world's second-largest oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia. However, the bulk of its exports are currently overseen by the United Nations under the so-called "oil-for-food" program -- a situation that likely would change if Saddam Hussein's government is toppled.

Still, Naimi played down any suggestion that world markets could be flooded with Iraqi oil after a regime change.

"In order to raise Iraq's production significantly, billions in investment would be needed," he said.

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