Venezuela oil minister says he does not expect OPEC to boost production

Venezuela does not expect the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase oil production because few OPEC-member countries have the capacity to boost output, Venezuela's oil minister said.

"All the countries are producing at the maximum (level)," Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said late Wednesday.

Ramirez told the state-run Bolivarian News Agency that speculation regarding production increases are normal ahead of OPEC meetings. The 11-member organization is scheduled to meet Monday in Vienna.

Some industry observers expect OPEC to increase production to bring down soaring international oil prices, which held above $65 a barrel on Thursday.

OPEC Acting Secretary General Adnan Shihab-Eldin said Thursday that the cartel would consider increasing its production ceiling by almost 2 percent at its meeting next week.

Ramirez, who is also president of the state-run oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., or PDVSA, said Venezuela's proposal "is focusing more on the modernization of refining infrastructure."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he expected "oil prices to continue rising."

Chavez said market forces such as increased demand by developed countries, particularly the United States, and limited supplies could push oil prices "above $100 a barrel."

Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter, a founding member of OPEC and a major supplier to the United States, AP reported.

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