On Sunday, a meeting of 18 major oil-producing countries in Qatar ended without an agreement to boost prices by freezing oil production, after Iran declined to send a representative and regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia said it wouldn't agree to a freeze unless Iran signed on. Oil prices had risen from a 12-year low of under $30 a barrel in December to over $40 before the weekend talks, but prices opened sharply lower in Asian trading early Monday and were expected to drop when U.S. and European markets open.
Iran, which just started shipping oil to Europe again after the end of sanctions, decided to cancel its participation in the meeting late Saturday. Tehran bowed out "as we are not part of the decision to freeze output," Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh said on state television. "We can't cooperate with them to freeze our own output, and in other words impose sanctions on ourselves." The 18 countries in Qatar included several members of OPEC, including Venezuela and Nigeria, as well as non-OPEC member Russia. OPEC doesn't have a scheduled meeting until June. Peter Weber