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EghtesadOnline: OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said the 14-nation group is facing its toughest challenge as members debate oil-production cuts needed to balance the market.

“OPEC has gone through good times and conditions for more than half a century and hard ones too, and the current stage is the hardest one,” Barkindo said during a visit to Baghdad in remarks distributed by Iraq’s Oil Ministry. OPEC is working hard on a solution to stabilize the market, he said after meeting Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi for talks.

Iraq, the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, threw an obstacle in OPEC’s path toward a production-cuts deal this weekend when it balked at joining efforts to trim output. The country should be exempted from curtailing supply because it’s embroiled in a war with Islamic militants, Al-Luaibi said Sunday in Baghdad.

OPEC needs to allocate production quotas to individual countries after reaching a surprise agreement last month to reduce output for the first time in eight years. Iraq has become the fourth member -- after Iran, Nigeria and Libya -- to seek an exemption. The organization is also trying to woo non-OPEC producers such as Russia to join in the cuts, reports Bloomberg.

Al-Luaibi said Tuesday that Iraq is “optimistic” that all producers can reach an agreement. An OPEC committee will meet later this week to try to resolve differences over how much individual members should pump. The group aims to make a final decision on quotas when it meets in Vienna on Nov. 30.

Opec oil market Mohammed Barkindo oil output