OPEC president and Kuwait's Energy Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah said Tuesday there was no need for the oil cartel to cut output at present, but that the market must be monitored carefully.
"Until now, we don't have to cut. Until now, the price is very high and we have to respect this price and cooperate with others for the stability of the market," the minister told reporters in parliament.
Oil prices rose this week, supported by fears that OPEC could cut production at a meeting in Iran next month.
Asked if he supported the idea of a production cut at the meeting in Isfahan on March 16, Sheikh Ahmad said that if prices remain at the current level, the same OPEC ceiling will be maintained.
"All signals show that there will be a good demand in the second quarter ... With the prices now, I don't think there is a reason we will cut," he said.
"If the demand will continue in the second quarter, especially from China and other Asian countries, then we don't have to cut because the oversupply will go for new demand. It will not go to build the stocks," which could go above the average, he said.
"With the prices high, the geopolitical problems and the average stocks until now, I think we are keeping the same ceiling" of 27 million barrels per day (bpd) adopted at an OPEC meeting on December 10, he added.
The 11-member cartel decided at its last meeting in Vienna on January 30 to maintain output levels at 27 million bpd but hinted that high prices for crude were here to stay and that it may cut output soon.
World oil prices soared on Tuesday, supported by colder temperatures hitting the US northeast and Europe, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, surged 1.21 dollars to 49.56 dollars a barrel in electronic dealing.
Trading in the contract had been closed Monday due to a public holiday in the United States.
In London, the price of Brent North Sea crude oil for delivery in April gained 60 cents to 47.33 dollars a barrel.
Analysts noted that prices were supported also by the prospect of a possible output cut by OPEC next month.
"Speculation that OPEC may cut output at its next meeting have put a floor under" prices, analysts from the Sucden brokerage firm said.