‘At the precise hour we speak, I think it is not necessary [to release stocks],’ Mandil told Reuters. ‘We had a very strong statement from OPEC which has said they will ensure any shortfall and we are confident they will do their best. We don’t see any need at this hour.’

OPEC has announced that it would make up any supply shortfall resulting from the US attack on Iraq. Brent crude oil futures fell $25.55 a barrel on the morning of 20 March. This is 25 per cent down on its level six days ago.