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Oil minister: Saudi Arabia can make up for Iranian crude

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 17, 2012 -- Updated 2031 GMT (0431 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Saudi Arabia's oil minister says the Saudis can increase production "almost immediately"
  • He says the country has a spare capacity
  • Al-Naimi: "Our wish and hope" is to keep oil prices at about $100 a barrel
  • He says he doesn't think Iran would shut down the strait for any lengthy time

(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia can make up for any loss of crude oil production if sanctions are placed on Iran, the country's oil minister told CNN in an exclusive interview.

"I believe we can easily get up to 11.4, 11.8 (million barrels a day) almost immediately, in a few days, because all we need is to turn valves," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told CNN's John Defterios. "Now to get to the next 700 or so, we probably need about 90 days."

When asked about whether Saudi Arabia could make up for Iran's exports of 2.2 million barrels a day, al-Naimi said the country has a spare capacity "to respond to emergencies worldwide, to respond to our customer demand, and that is really the focus. Our focus is not on who drops out from production, but who wants more."

Saudi Arabia: Ready to turn valves

He also discussed his outlook for oil prices in 2012 amid tensions in the Gulf region.

Oil prices going up, tensions flare
Oil and natural gas market outlook

"Our wish and hope is we can stabilize this oil price and keep it at a level around $100" for the average barrel of crude, al-Naimi said.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the only outlet from the Persian Gulf, as it faces increased scrutiny over its nuclear program. The critical shipping lane had 17 million barrels of oil per day passing through in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

But al-Naimi dismissed the concern.

"I personally do not believe that the strait, if it were shut, will be shut for any length of time. The world cannot stand for that," he said.

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