Shaikh Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who is also Kuwait's oil minister, said in a statement on Sunday that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries will explore options to keep crude prices at moderate levels at its 19 September meeting in Vienna.

He did not elaborate in his statement, which was carried by Kuwait's state-run news agency.

Oil prices reached record highs on the New York Mercantile Exchange last week, hovering below $68 a barrel before the close of trading on Friday.

Hurricane fears

The spike occurred amid fears that Hurricane Katrina would disrupt American oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. But crude oil futures ended up closing Friday slightly down at $66.13 a barrel from their record highs.

"We are becoming increasingly concerned at the continuing high level of oil prices, which does not properly reflect the underlying fundamentals of the market," Shaikh Ahmed said in his statement.

Hurricane Katrina churns in the
Gulf of Mexico on Sunday

Shaikh Ahmed said that oil supplies were plentiful and that Opec has been producing 1.5 million barrels per day more than needed during the third quarter of 2005.

Existing spare capacity in Opec countries, together with new capacity additions early next year, will be more than able to cover growing demand throughout the coming winter and in 2006, he added.

Much of the new capacity will be provided by Opec and non-Opec members using lighter crudes in demand by the market, he said.

Based on such fundamentals, Shaikh Ahmed said he expected some price moderation instead of further rises.

At its meeting next month, Opec members will explore new options to further contribute to a moderating in prices.