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Former Saudi oil boss says it can cope with low price

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Saudi Arabia can cope with low oil prices for "at least eight years", Saudi Arabia's minister of petroleum's former senior adviser has told the BBC.

Mohammed al-Sabban said the country's policy was to defend its current market share by enduring low prices.

"You need to allow prices to go as low as possible in order to see those marginal producers move out of the market," he said.

Mr al-Sabban advised the ministry for 27 years, leaving last year.

Saudi Arabia, the largest producer within the Opec oil producers' cartel, has repeatedly said that it will not cut output to try to boost the oil price.

Mr al-Sabban said Saudi Arabia's "huge financial reserves" would enable it to cope with the low oil price.

The country is now in the process of cutting government spending.

Without these cuts, Mr al-Sabban said, Saudi Arabia could not cope with low oil prices for more than four years.

Falling further

Oil prices have more than halved since June.

The dramatic fall has been blamed on a sharp increase in production from North American shale companies, which has increased the supply of oil and gas, helping to depress prices.

Also undermining the price of oil are slowing global economic demand and a rising dollar against a range of other currencies.

The latter can flatter the oil price, which nonetheless can remain the same price in a local currency that buys fewer dollars.

On Monday, Brent crude was trading at around $49.40 a barrel, down 77 cents, and US crude was trading down 74 cents at $47.95 a barrel.

The falls came after Saudi Arabia said again on Sunday that it would not cut output to prop up oil markets.

Referring to countries outside of Opec, Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said: "If they want to cut production they are welcome. We are not going to cut, certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut."

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