The Associated Press March 29, 2012, 1:11PM ET

France sees 'good chance' of oil stock release

France's prime minister said Thrusday that there's a "good chance" the United States and Europe will agree to release oil reserves into the market to drive down crude prices, but discussions were still ongoing.

Last summer, when the war in Libya tightened supplies, especially for Europe, countries belonging to the Paris-based International Energy Agency released 60 million barrels of crude into the market to cool prices.

Now tensions over Iran are pushing prices up again.

Even just talk of a new stock release had brought the cost of oil down. The price of benchmark crude tumbled almost $2 on Wednesday on expectations of a stock release. It fell another $1.91 to $103.50 on Thursday.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said France could tap reserves if it reaches agreement with other countries holding stocks.

"It seems to me there's a good chance that the United States and Europe will agree on this solution," he told France Inter radio.

Fears that a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would disrupt crude supplies have helped drive oil up from $75 in October. Energy prices are threatening to derail a fragile global economic recovery.

"As we have mentioned many times, the IEA was created to respond to serious physical supply disruptions, and we remain ready to act if market conditions so warrant," IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said after a regularly scheduled meeting of energy-market experts in Paris.

Van der Hoeven said the IEA was concerned about the effect high oil prices could have on the global recovery, and was staying in touch with member countries on the subject.

On Wednesday, French government spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse said the country was considering a release of emergency crude stockpiles but was waiting for recommendations from the IEA.


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