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Qatar to withdraw from OPEC and focus on gas exports

Reuters  |  DOHA 

By Eric Knecht

DOHA (Reuters) - said on Monday it was quitting OPEC from January 2019 but would attend the exporter group's meeting this week, saying the decision meant Doha could focus on cementing its position as the world's top liquefied (LNG) exporter.

Doha, one of the producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is locked in a diplomatic dispute with the group's de facto leader but said the move to leave OPEC was not driven by politics.

of State for Energy Affairs told a conference that Qatar, which he said been a member of OPEC for 57 years, would still attend the group's meeting on Thursday and Friday this week, and would abide by its commitments.

"has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019 and this decision was communicated to OPEC this morning," the said.

"For me to put efforts and resources and time in an organisation that we are a very in and I don't have a say in what happens ... practically it does not work, so for us it's better to focus on our big growth potential," he said.

One OPEC source told the decision was more symbolic than anything else. "They are not a big producer, but have played a big part in it's (OPEC) history," the source said.

has output of only 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), compared with the 11 million bpd produced by Saudi Arabia, the group's biggest and world's biggest exporter.

But Doha is an in the global LNG market with annual production of 77 million tonnes per year, based on its huge reserves of the fuel in the Gulf.

Amrita Sen, at consultancy Energy Aspects, said Qatar's withdrawal "doesn't affect OPEC's ability to influence as Qatar was a very "

OPEC and its allies, including Russia, are expected to agree on a supply cut at this week's meeting in a bid to support crude prices that have slid almost 30 percent since October.

surged about 5 percent on Monday after the and agreed to a 90-day truce in their trade war, but Brent crude is still trading at around $62 a barrel, well below October's peak of more than $86.

Al-Kaabi, who is heading Qatar's OPEC delegation, said the decision was not political but related to the country's long-term strategy and plans to develop its and increase LNG output to 110 million tonnes by 2024.

OPEC members, and the United Arab Emirates, and fellow Arab states and Egypt, have imposed a political and economic boycott on Qatar since June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the charges and says the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.

"A lot of people will politicise it," Al-Kaabi said. "I assure you this purely was a decision on what's right for Qatar long term. It's a strategy decision."

"We will make a big splash in the business soon," he said.

He said planned to raise its production capability from 4.8 million equivalent per day to 6.5 million barrels in the next decade. Doha also plans to build the largest ethane cracker in the

(Reporting by Eric Knecht; Additional reporting by in Singapore and Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Writing by and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by and Edmund Blair)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, December 03 2018. 13:47 IST