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Iran Says Cooperation Needed With Non-OPEC Countries

The world economic downturn has forced down oil prices
TEHRAN, March 8 (Reuters) - Iran's oil minister has called for cooperation between crude producers inside and outside OPEC, saying it was necessary in view of the global economic downturn, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari, speaking on March 8, a week before OPEC ministers are due to meet in Vienna, also said OPEC members were almost completely complying with commitments to curb output, IRNA said.

Nozari said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would make a decision "in regard to oil output" at its March 15 meeting after examining the crude market and the global economy, giving no detail on what that decision might be.

OPEC member Venezuela has said it would propose another output cut if needed, echoing comments from other members.

Earlier this month, Nozari said he did not expect a further reduction decision in Vienna after Iran had previously suggested OPEC could impose more curbs. He did, however, call for a mechanism to underpin prices.

"Under the current global economic conditions the cooperation of non-OPEC oil producers [with OPEC members] is absolutely necessary," IRNA quoted him as saying in his March 8 statement.

He did not elaborate nor mention any countries by name.

Russia is the largest oil producer outside OPEC.

Crude prices have plunged more than $100 a barrel since a July peak of $147 as a weakening world economy hit fuel demand.

But on March 6, oil settled more than 4 percent higher as expectations that OPEC could reduce output again outweighed weak U.S. economic data.

The 12-member group has already agreed to cut production by 4.2 million barrels per day since September, and a Reuters survey found that members have met 81 percent of their output reductions as of last month.