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White House: Saudis pushed OPEC+ nations into crude oil production cut

The OPEC logo is pictured ahead of an informal meeting between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Algiers, Algeria, on September 28, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)

The White House has asserted that Saudi Arabia pushed member states of the oil cartel Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, into a recent crude production cut.

More than one OPEC member disagreed with Saudi Arabia’s push to cut production and felt coerced into the vote, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday.

He said he was not going to identify the members to let them speak for themselves.

Kirby said earlier in the day that the US had presented Saudi Arabia with an analysis showing there was no market basis to lower oil production before the OPEC+ decision to cut output.

The OPEC+ grouping agreed last week to cut output by an amount equal to about 2 percent of global supply, curbing production in a tight market and raising the possibility of higher gasoline prices as Washington seeks to limit Russia’s energy revenues after its military campaign against Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia has insisted that decisions by OPEC+ were taken “purely on economic considerations” and its economic advice had been to resist calls to delay the production cut.

“The Saudi foreign ministry can try to spin or deflect, but the facts are simple,” Kirby stated, noting that cutting output would “increase Russian revenues and blunt the effectiveness of sanctions” against Moscow.

Kirby said Washington’s analysis also showed the cut could have waited until the next OPEC meeting, after the early November midterm elections that will determine the makeup of the next Congress. History suggests the midterms could spell trouble for Democrats as the party in power.

Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez called on Monday for a “freeze” on cooperation with Saudi Arabia after OPEC+ cuts.

“The United States must immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend US personnel and interests,” Menendez said in a statement.

“I will not green-light any cooperation with Riyadh until the Kingdom reassesses its position with respect to the war in Ukraine. Enough is enough,” Menendez said.

The White House said it was “disappointed” in the OPEC+ decision and called it “shortsighted.”

US President Joe Biden has promised “consequences” for Saudi Arabia as OPEC’s top producer.

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