UAE energy minister refuses to discuss tentative oil cap

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Dodging reporters' questions, the United Arab Emirates' energy minister refused Wednesday to discuss a proposed cap to crude oil production agreed to by four oil-producing countries the day before, raising new questions about the proposal aimed at stabilizing global prices.

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Minister Suhail Mohamed al-Mazrouei's stance suggests regional rivalries also may be in play, as Russia and Saudi Arabia joined Qatar and Venezuela on Tuesday in agreeing to the deal if other producers go along. The surprise closed-door meeting involving the four countries in the Qatari capital, Doha, apparently did not include an Emirati official.

Qatar and the Emirates, both oil and gas powerhouses in their own right, also compete with each other in the aviation industry and cultural pursuits.

Al-Mazrouei, who gave a keynote address at the 2016 CIS Global Business Forum in Dubai, mentioned low oil prices in passing in his speech. Afterward, journalists followed him outside.

"I will only talk about this conference," he said, before smiling and walking away from reporters' shouted questions.

Al-Mazrouei then entered a side room at the hotel hosting the event. Security guards later arrived to put up a golden rope to keep journalists away. He left some 15 minutes later, still trailed by shouted questions.

Later, he took to Twitter to say: "UAE oil policy is open to co-operate with all producers toward mutual interest of the market stability and we are optimistic on the future."

Whether the Doha plan is enough to put a floor under prices is uncertain. The proposal depends on co-operation from a range of producers, including Iran, which is eager to ramp up its exports now that sanctions related to its nuclear program have been lifted.

A barrel of benchmark New York crude fell 40 cents to close at $29.04 in New York on Tuesday. A barrel of Brent, the international standard, fell $1.21 to $32.18.


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