Jiddah, Saudi Arabia Facing strong U.S. pressure and global dismay over oil prices, Saudi Arabia said Sunday it will produce more crude this year if the market needs it. But the vague pledge fell far short of U.S. hopes for a specific increase and may do little to lower prices immediately.
For now, the current "oil shock" leaves Western countries with little choice but to move toward nuclear power and change their energy-consumption habits, Britain's prime minister warned at a rare meeting of 35 oil-producing and consuming nations.
Saudi Arabia - the world's top crude exporter - called the gathering Sunday to send a message that it, too, is concerned by high oil prices inflicting economic pain worldwide.
Instead, the meeting highlighted the sharp disagreement between producers like Saudi Arabia and consuming countries like Britain and the United States over the core factors driving steep price hikes. Oil closed near $135 a barrel on Friday - almost double the price a year ago.
The U.S. and other nations argue that oil production has not kept up with increasing demand, especially from China, India and the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries say there is no shortage of oil and instead blame financial speculation and the falling U.S. dollar.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said the kingdom is willing to produce more than the 9.7 million barrels of oil a day it had already planned to produce in July - if the market requires it.
But the Saudi oil minister also blamed speculators and asserted supply is not the problem.
"In today's environment, I am convinced that supply and demand balances and crude oil production levels are not the primary drivers of the current market situation," al-Naimi said.
King Abdullah also said Saudi Arabia is not the culprit.
The king cited several factors driving "the unjustified, swift rise in oil prices" including "speculators who play the market out of selfish interests."
U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, however, said earlier that U.S. officials had found no evidence speculators are driving up prices.
Saudi officials have consistently said the country would provide enough oil to supply the market. The kingdom announced a 300,000 barrel per day increase in May and said before the start of the Jiddah meeting that it would add another 200,000 barrels per day in July, raising total daily output to 9.7 million barrels.