* US asked France to join UK-US cooperation on stocks
* France says in touch with IEA on possible release
* IEA has said members may draw stocks unilaterally
(Updates with White House comment, paragraphs 8-10)
By Yann Le Guernigou and Muriel Boselli
PARIS, March 28 France is in talks with the
United States and Britain on a possible release of strategic oil
stocks to push fuel prices lower, French ministers said on
Wed nesday, four weeks before the country's presidential
Earlier in March, British sources said London was prepared
to cooperate with Washington on a release of strategic oil
stocks that was expected within months, in a bid to prevent fuel
prices from choking economic growth in what is also a U.S.
France's Energy Minister Eric Besson told journalists after
the weekly ministers' meeting the United States had asked France
to join it in a possible emergency inventory release.
Such a release could happen "in a matter of weeks," Le Monde
daily said on Wednesday, citing presidential sources.
Crude oil prices, which have risen almost 16 percent since
the start of the year, fell more than a dollar on the news.
"It is the United States which has asked and France has
welcomed favorably this hypothesis," Besson said. He also said
the countries were awaiting conclusions from the International
Energy Agency (IEA), which coordinates emergency stock releases
in case of severe oil supply disruption.
The French budget minister and government spokeswoman,
Valerie Pecresse, told journalists France had joined the United
States and the UK in IEA consultations to receive authorization
to draw from strategic stocks.
The White House reiterated that the United States was
considering a reserve release but nothing was final.
"As we have said repeatedly, while this is an option that
remains on the table, no decisions have been made and no
specific actions have been proposed," White House spokesman Josh
Earnest told reporters.
"Anybody who tries to convince you - in this government or
any other government, frankly, - that specific decisions have
been made or actions have been proposed is not speaking
Rising oil prices have become a major headache for
politicians around the world including U.S. President Barack
Obama, who is running for re-election in November and facing
public anger over soaring U.S gasoline prices.
SOARING FUEL COSTS
Fuel prices in France have hit record levels, prompting an
intense debate between presidential candidates ahead of the
In neighboring Germany, the government in Berlin said on
Wednesday it was unaware of any official request from the United
States to release emergency oil stockpiles and did not believe
the current situation justified such action under German law.
The German law on oil provisions says emergency reserves can
only be released in the case of "physical disruption to
supplies. In our view there is no physical shortage at the
moment," a government spokeswoman told reporters.
Oil reserve releases are normally coordinated by the IEA,
representing 28 industrialized countries on energy policy.
But the head of the IEA, Maria van der Hoeven, has said on
several occasions that a coordinated IEA release is not
warranted because there is no significant supply disruption on
world oil markets. Germany and Italy say they are opposed.
Van der Hoeven said earlier this month that countries could
choose unilaterally to release stocks in consultation with the
agency. The IEA declined further comment on Wednesday.
The Paris-based IEA has authorized only three coordinated
releases since it was founded in 1974, with the last one in June
2011 in response to lost Libyan production during its civil war.
Aggregate global oil supply outages are running at more than
a million barrels a day, a Reuters survey has found, helping
provide justification should the U.S., Britain and France decide
to release strategic reserves.
Further losses of supply are expected as sanctions on Iran
hit its oil exports.
"The use of strategic reserves can be justified because it
is related to geopolitical tension," a source at the
presidential office was quoted as saying in the newspaper.
(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry in Paris, Jeff Mason in
Washington, and Stephen Brown and Marcus Wacket in Berlin;
Editing by Richard Mably and Eric Walsh)