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Iran seeks exemption from OPEC oil cuts because of US sanctions: oil minister

Vienna — Iran will seek an exemption from any OPEC production cut agreement, its oil minister said Wednesday, potentially complicating the group's already fraught negotiations.

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"Iran should be excluded from any decision on production levels," Bijan Zanganeh said on arrival in Vienna ahead of OPEC's Thursday meeting, adding that while the US maintains sanctions targeting Iranian oil sales, "we won't participate in any agreement on production."

He declined to reveal how much Iran was currently producing, saying that disclosing such information would provide the US with leverage on how tightly to enforce the sanctions.

S&P Global Platts, through a survey of industry officials, analysts and shipping data, estimates Iran's November crude output at 2.98 million b/d.

OPEC is set to decide on its 2019 production policy Thursday, with Russia and nine other non-OPEC allies joining talks Friday.

A six-country OPEC/non-OPEC monitoring committee, co-chaired by Saudi Arabia and Russia, met Wednesday and recommended a production cut of at least 1 million b/d, according to Omani oil minister Mohammed al-Rumhy, who sits on the committee.

But Zanganeh said he rejected the committee's work, saying it has exceeded its mandate to merely monitor market conditions.

ICE Brent futures were trading at $61.52/b at 2236 GMT.

"I think an oil price between $60-$70/b is fair," Zanganeh said.

Earlier Wednesday, Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih met with Brian Hook, a top US State Department official on Iran sanctions.

Neither side would disclose what the conversations entailed but analysts said they likely involved an exchange of views on how the US plans to enforce its sanctions on Iranian crude and how Saudi Arabia might adjust its output in response to any anticipated lost Iranian volumes.

Zanganeh criticized the meeting, saying it showed that the US was using OPEC as a geopolitical tool.

"If [Hook] wants to put pressure on Iran, it is an unprofessional manner," Zanganeh said.

-- Staff, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Pankti Mehta, newsdesk@spglobal.com