Iran is playing down hopes of a deal among oil-exporting countries meeting in Algeria this week to limit production and boost energy prices.

The comments Tuesday by Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh sent oil prices dropping further. The U.S. contract for crude oil was down 95 cents, or about 2 percent, at $44.98 a barrel, having traded roughly flat earlier in the day.

Speaking in Algiers, Zanganeh said an informal OPEC gathering due Wednesday is "just a consultation meeting ... If there is a decision, it should be taken at the next (OPEC) meeting in Vienna in November."

Despite shrinking hopes for a deal on freezing output levels, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal urged participants to overcome their differences to reach a "balanced price."