"I would hope that the Opec nations understand that high prices of oil could wreck economies, and if they wreck economies it means the purchasers will be fewer," Bush said on Monday.

It was some of the strongest language that Bush has used regarding the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries since his 2000 campaign promise to "jawbone" Opec countries to produce more oil.

   

Bush's comments came after Opec, which pumps more than a third of the world's oil, said last week in Doha that it would cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day in the face of soaring global crude inventories and falling prices.

   

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter and Opec's most influential member, told core customers in Asia and the US on Monday that it would cut supplies next month, making good on Opec's pledge to implement its first formal output cut since 2004.

   

Other fuels

 

Bush pledged during his annual State of the Union address to the US Congress last winter to slash US oil imports from the Middle East by more than 75 per cent by 2025, but he did not cite Opec by name.

   

Opec members are scrambling to stem a decline in crude oil prices that have taken about $20 a barrel off the cost of US oil futures, which hit a record $78.40 a barrel in mid-July.

   

Bush attributed the price drop to a mood shift on behalf of commodity speculators, many of whom had previously been betting on higher crude oil prices.

   

"I think what you saw was some speculators turning their heads in the other direction on the price of oil," Bush said.

   

Despite lower prices, the US still needs to push for more supplies from renewable sources like ethanol, he said.

   

"What we've got to do in this country, however, is welcome low oil prices, but continue to spend money to make sure we become less dependent on oil."