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Iran unlikely to agree to oil freeze, pre-sanctions output still aim: source

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Tehran — Iran would be unlikely to agree to freeze its crude output at current levels as part of any deal among OPEC and other major oil producers, an Iranian official told S&P Global Platts on Friday.

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Reuters reported earlier that Saudi Arabia has told Iran it would be willing to reduce its output if Iran agreed to freeze its production at current levels of around 3.6 million b/d, citing unnamed sources.

The Iranian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as oil minister Bijan Zanganeh has final say over policy decisions, declined to confirm whether Iran had received any such proposal from Saudi Arabia.

But he said Iran continues to insist on regaining its pre-sanctions output levels before agreeing to any restrictions on its output.

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"I think it's unlikely that Iran will even consider 3.6 million b/d," the official said. "It is very, very unlikely that Iran agrees to this figure or negotiates it." He added: "As far as the oil ministry's principal policy is concerned, we have always stressed that we want our pre-sanctions level of 4.2 million b/d back."

Representatives from the two countries have been meeting in Vienna the past few days ahead of next week's International Energy Forum in Algiers, where OPEC is scheduled to informally meet and possibly discuss an output freeze, according to media reports.

Saudi Arabia pumped a record 10.66 million b/d in August, according to the latest Platts OPEC production survey. Many observers expect the kingdom's output to decline in the coming months anyway, as the peak summer air conditioning season ends, reducing its domestic crude burn.

Iran produced 3.63 million b/d in August for the third straight month, according to the Platts survey, as recovery from sanctions imposed on its oil sector by western powers over its nuclear program appears to be plateauing.

A previous agreement in April among major OPEC and non-OPEC producers at a summit in Doha to freeze output at January levels fell apart over Saudi Arabia's insistence that Iran be a party to the deal.

Iran did not participate in the Doha talks but is scheduled to attend the Algiers meeting.

The meeting comes as the market continues to languish from a global supply overhang that has persisted far longer than many producer nations had anticipated.

Saudi Arabia, which in recent years has declined to act as the world's swing producer to balance the market, has said that it would only participate in coordinated output action if there were unanimous agreement among all key producers.

--Aresu Eqbali,

--Edited by Jonathan Dart,