VIENNA, Austria -- Denouncing U.S. pressure but fearing loss of market share, Iran announced today it would increase oil production after initially refusing to accept an agreement signed by nine other OPEC members to boost the world's crude supplies.
The announcement, made by Iran's representative to OPEC, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, came one day after OPEC agreed to boost crude oil output by 6.3 percent, a figure industry analysts say offers scant relief for consumers staggered by skyrocketing prices for gasoline.
If Iran increases production by the full 264,000 barrels a day it would have been required to do under the Tuesday OPEC agreement, the cartel would boost total output by 7.5 percent over the ceiling set when it cut production last year.
Nevertheless, analysts said that even with the Iranian announcement, they did not expect gasoline prices in the United States to drop by more than a few cents per gallon.
''The point to make is that one dollar a gallon gasoline was very unrealistic,'' said Raad Alkadiri, an analyst with The Petroleum Finance Company, a Washington-based consultancy. ''It was the result of a very unusual situation,'' brought about by OPEC's increase in production in 1997 just before the Asian financial crisis depressed demand and created a glut.
Ardebili said Iran initially balked at going along with the rest of OPEC to protest American pressure on the cartel. Iran had questioned whether there was such a shortage of crude oil that they needed to increase production by as much as the Saudis and Kuwaitis had insisted.
Ardebili, however, said Iran feared a loss of market share if it refuses to join others in raising production.
On Tuesday, ministers of the 11-nation cartel said members would begin pumping an additional 1.45 million barrels of oil a day. The Clinton administration had been lobbying for an increase of 2 million to 2.5 million barrels a day.
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