Saudi Crown Prince Abd Allah said on Monday that Riyadh would pump "as much as fields allow" to cool off overheated markets. Abd Allah said he would prefer to see world oil prices between $25-$30 a barrel.

 

Iraqi oil flows, too, resumed on Saturday to the Turkish port of Ceyhan at levels not seen for the past year, said an official with the state-owned Northern Oil Company.

  

On Monday, New York's light sweet crude for September delivery initially reached a new all-time high level of $46.91 a barrel in Asian trading.

  

The benchmark contract later stood at $46.41 a barrel in electronic trading, down 17 cents from Friday's close.

In London, the price of Brent North Sea crude oil for delivery in September slid 58 cents on Monday to $43.30 a barrel in early trading, having soared $1.59 to a record finish of $43.88 on Friday.

Venezuela factor

Prices also eased as electoral authorities in Venezuela on Monday announced President Hugo Chavez had won a referendum on his mandate.

 

The referendum victory of Hugo
Chavez is seen as averting turmoil

Chavez won with more than 58% of the vote, though the opposition rejected the partial vote count.   

In Caracas, fresh from the electoral triumph, Chavez vowed the oil-rich country would guarantee stability on world oil markets.

However, price falls were limited by persistent concerns over unrest in Iraq, a financial crisis at Russian oil titan Yukos and strong demand.

 

Saudis blame companies

     

In an interview published in Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyassah and its sister publication Arab Times on Monday, the Saudi crown prince Abd Allah said the world's top crude exporter was already pumping oil at "record levels."

   

"We never wanted the price to cross the $30 barrier"

Crown Prince Abd Allah

"We never wanted the price to cross the $30 barrier ... we see that prices should fluctuate between $25 to $30 a barrel so that countries are not hurt," he said.

   

Abd Allah placed the blame for the price spike with oil companies.

 

"I'd like to affirm that the current price rise in this form has nothing to do with us," he said. "Major companies who deal in oil are responsible."