WASHINGTON - The White House embraced over the weekend recent comments by Saudi Arabia's energy minister some market watchers had taken as a signal that consumer nations need not release emergency petroleum reserves to calm oil prices.

Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said in a statement on Sept. 10 that the world's largest crude exporter was concerned about high oil prices, would take steps to moderate them, and would meet any additional demand from its customers.

The kingdom would continue to work with other Gulf Cooperation Council countries and with OPEC to defend the stability of the oil market, Naimi said.

Stubbornly high US oil prices, which on Friday hit more than $100 a barrel, the loftiest since May 4, have led industry watchers to guess whether President Barack Obama will tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

The White House reiterated it was keeping all options on the table to calm prices, but also applauded Naimi's comments.

"We ... welcome Saudi Arabia's continued commitment to take all necessary steps to ensure the market is well supplied and to help moderate prices," a White House official said in an email over the weekend.

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