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Apr 21, 7:17 AM EDT

Iran: no output freeze until it restores pre-sanctions level


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PARIS (AP) -- Iran won't consider a production freeze until it reaches its pre-sanctions level of output of 4.2 million barrels a day, a senior energy official said Thursday.

Mehdi Hosseini, who heads the oil contracts revision committee at Iran's Petroleum Ministry, said a freeze at anything less than that would be a continuation of the sanctions imposed on his country as a result of its disputed nuclear program.

"Our pre-sanction production was something around 4.2 (million barrels per day), and our exports was something around 2.5, 2.6 (million barrels per day) or so" Hosseini said on the margins of an oil conference in Paris. "Therefore any other figure less than that it means another sanction against ourselves. It is something we cannot accept."

The statement is in line with Iran's previous comments on the issue and comes after the country stayed away from a global producers' meeting last weekend on whether to freeze production. With many international sanctions lifted under its nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers, Iran began exporting oil into the European market again and is eager to claw back market share. It produces 3.2 million barrels of oil a day now, with hopes of increasing to 4 million by April 2017.

The failure of last weekend's meeting to yield any agreement dominated the conference's morning sessions, with one audience member asking whether OPEC, an economic alliance of oil producing nations, had become a "zombie organization."

"I heard many times that OPEC was dead," OPEC Chairman Abdallah Salem el-Badri told participants. "OPEC will be around as long as there is oil in the ground."

Outside the venue, around 30 demonstrators shouted slogans against fossil fuels and climate change, chanting: "One, two, three degrees - it's a crime against humanity."

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