"Saudi Arabia's policy is consistent. Number one: we will not allow any shortages in the market," the country's ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, said on Thursday.

Prince Bandar met with President George Bush during the day, passing on a message from Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abd Allah.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's most influential member, was seen as leading a cartel move to cut production by about four per cent, or one million barrels a day.

US criticism

The Bush administration publicly criticised the action, after asking OPEC to delay production cuts because of record-high US retail gasoline prices.

"I have just passed a message from Crown Prince Abd Allah to the president regarding the energy situation," Bandar said.

"The president and the crown prince have been in touch on this subject for a while now. Both leaders felt strongly that higher energy prices have a negative impact on the world economy," he said.

Rising oil prices are threatening to revive tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia.