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Opec asks US to release emergency oil stocks

Jakarta - The president of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) on Wednesday urged the United States to release some of its emergency crude oil stocks.

"I am always asking them to do that," Purnomo Yusgiantoro told reporters.

The statement came as dealers said crude oil prices retreated slightly in Asian trade after the world's largest producer, Saudi Arabia, declared its readiness to boost output.

Yusgiantoro said there was no need for a formal request to the United States to release oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) but he had made his wishes known through the Opec secretariat.

"Basically, I have asked America to release (oil from the) SPR," said Yusgiantoro, who is also Indonesia's minister of energy and mineral resources.

According to the US Department of Energy, the SPR is the world's largest emergency supply of crude oil and is designed to hold 700 million barrels when full.

It has been drawn down on several, exceptional occasions, most recently after a series of hurricanes hit US oil output but such decisions have been controversial.

On Tuesday, Yusgiantoro had said there was no problem with world oil stocks.

He said he had called on Opec members to release all their supply into the market "to give a positive signal to the market that we are not (facing) any shortage."

In Asian trade at 11:40 am (0340 GMT), New York's light sweet crude for December delivery was down five cents to $55.12 a barrel from its close of $55.17 in New York Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, said Tuesday it was ready to raise production if asked but said shortages were not an issue at the moment.

World oil prices have surged by about two-thirds since the start of this year.

Adjusted for inflation, however, they remain well below the levels reached in the wake of the 1979 Iranian revolution when prices soared beyond the equivalent of $80 a barrel in today's money. - AFP

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