"Relative to a year ago, global demand for oil is weaker ... while supply is robust," analyst Stephen Schork said in a research note Wednesday.
Iran and its backers have been usually defeated by Saudi Arabia — OPEC's powerhouse that accounts for nearly a third of the organization's production — and its Gulf supporters, and Naimi signaled ahead of Thursday's meeting that his country was not prepared to cut back output .
"When customers come, what do you do?" he asked reporters. "They say we want oil — what do you do?
"You give it to them. That's the business we are in."
But Naimi does not always get his way.
OPEC's ministerial meeting a year ago broke up in disarray with no agreement on production after an acrimonious session he described as one of the worst ever. This time around, Iraq could increase the pressure on the Saudis by joining those calling for output restraint. Baghdad has played little role in recent years in OPEC decision-making but has progressively shaken off decades of sanctions and war and is now exporting around 2.5 million barrels a day, giving it a significant voice.
Reflecting Baghdad's stance ahead of the meeting, Iraq's OPEC president, Abdul Kareem Luaibi, has noted the "tremendous surplus that has led to this severe decline in prices."
Atkinson, the analyst, said Saudi Arabia' push to lower prices further could backfire, resulting in free-fall that could leave the country short on its main revenue source and "very uncomfortable."
Noura Maan, Margaret Childs and AP video reporter Philipp Jenne contributed.
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