Saudi Arabia will act to bring down oil prices, Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi said on Thursday as France signalled that a release of strategic stocks was likely to boost supply.
Saudi Arabia "would like to see a fair and reasonable price that will not hurt the global economic recovery, especially in emerging and developing countries", the minister wrote in a column amid concerns that rising energy prices are hurting the world economy.
While the market is "fundamentally balanced" Saudi Arabia "will use spare production capacity to supply the oil market with any additional required volumes", the minister said.
Oil prices, despite falling on Thursday, have risen in recent weeks, putting pressure on economies worldwide.
The negative impact of high oil prices on the global economy has spurred speculation that the United States, France, and Britain will resort to tapping its strategic oil reserves.
In Paris, French Economy Minister Francois Baroin told Europe One radio on Thursday that he was "reasonably" confident that the International Energy Agency would decide in favour of the release of oil from strategic stocks.
Baroin said the stocks could function as a "sort of buffer" but that "no one should expect miracles" with regard to prices at the pump.
In France, the price of fuel for vehicles has reached record levels in nominal terms and is now a significant subject in campaigning for a presidential election.
Oil prices fell in Asian trading on Thursday following US and European indications of support for the release of strategic oil reserves.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, shed eight cents to $105.33 per barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was down nine cents at $124.07.