Russia isn't likely to join OPEC

ORAN, Algeria — Russia proved only a half-hearted helper to OPEC at a key meeting Wednesday aimed at boosting oil prices, and it distanced itself from talk of a closer union with the oil producers' club.

Major support from non-member Russia, the world's second-largest oil producer behind Saudi Arabia, would have been significant. Non-OPEC members Mexico, Norway and Russia last slashed production in the late 1990s, at a time oil was selling for about $10 a barrel.

But although Russian Deputy Premier Igor Sechin, as well as the energy minister of nearby Azerbaijan, announced cutbacks of a total of more than 600,000 barrels a day, their commitments appeared largely symbolic. The Russians indicated their reductions were been implemented in November, while Azerbaijan's output had already been reduced by about a third because of production problems earlier this year.

Sechin made vague comments on further cooperation with OPEC. He did not rule out full membership eventually, but he said, "We are not rushing."

A member of the Russian delegation who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to comment was blunter, saying his country had no interest in joining OPEC.

OPEC President Chakib Khelil told reporters that "it's up to (Russia) now to decide if it's in their interests to contribute to stabilizing the market." As Russia evaluates "what OPEC can bring them, they are probably going to change their minds in the future and become full members," he said.