Saudi-Iran tensions scupper deal to freeze oil output
By Rania El Gamal and Reem Shamseddine
DOHA (Reuters) - A deal to freeze oil output by OPEC and non-OPEC producers fell apart on Sunday after Saudi Arabia demanded that Iran join in despite calls on Riyadh to save the agreement and help prop up crude prices.
The development will revive oil industry fears that major producers are embarking again on a battle for market share, especially after Riyadh threatened to raise output steeply if no freeze deal were reached.
Iran is also pledging to ramp up production following the lifting of Western sanctions in January, making a compromise with Riyadh almost impossible as the two fight proxy wars in Yemen and Syria.
Some 18 oil nations, including non-OPEC Russia, gathered in the Qatari capital of Doha for what was expected to be the rubber-stamping of a deal - in the making since February - to stabilize output at January levels until October 2016.
But OPEC's de facto leader Saudi Arabia told participants it wanted all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to take part in the freeze, including Iran, which was absent from the talks.
Tehran had refused to stabilize production, seeking to regain market share post-sanctions.
After five hours of fierce debate about the wording of a communique - including between Saudi Arabia and Russia - delegates and ministers announced no deal had been reached.
"We concluded we all need time to consult further," Qatar's energy minister Mohammed al-Sada told reporters. Several OPEC sources said if Iran agreed to join the freeze at the next OPEC meeting on June 2, talks with non-OPEC producers could resume. Continued...