Rafael Ramirez said prices were still lower today in real terms than during the oil crisis of the 1970s, but that could change.

"The prices we are seeing today are in today's dollars,” Ramirez said, on Thursday.

"For us to have the same amount of revenues that we had in 1970, '74, you'd have to put the oil price close to $100 a barrel. They could reach that given certain factors."

Oil prices rose above $74.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday as concerns increased after fresh attacks on pipelines in Nigeria.

Ramirez said it was "not possible" to return to earlier prices of about $20 a barrel.

"At some point they [oil prices] will stabilize but we have to wait," he said.

Geopolitical problems

Earlier on Thursday, Ramirez told Venevision television that "geopolitical problems" have driven up energy prices in a way that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries is powerless to stop.

Ramirez said Venezuela will discuss oil prices with other OPEC members in Qatar, where some ministers are gathered for a natural gas conference.

The oil minister said the limits of worldwide refining capacity and OPEC members' inability to boost output made it difficult to counteract price rises.

OPEC members will next meet in Vienna in September.

Ramirez is travelling with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who arrived in Qatar on Thursday after a visit to Russia.

Chavez is making his fifth trip to Qatar in as many years. During his last visit, in March 2005, the two countries signed a series of economic cooperation accords.