Updated from noon ESTOil prices fell Monday on hopes that the Iranian nuclear dispute might be resolved without the U.N. Security Council's intervention. Optimism that OPEC will vote against production cuts at an upcoming meeting also helped the bears. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is met Monday in Vienna to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions, said he was hopeful an agreement could be reached this week. "I am still very much hopeful that in the next week an agreement could be reached," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the Associated Press. Russian, E.U. and Iranian diplomats have been meeting over the past two weeks to hammer out a resolution that would allow Russia to enrich uranium on Iran's behalf. Tehran restarted nuclear activities last month to produce more electricity in defiance of Western threats of economic sanctions. The West suspects Iran is attempting to build atomic weapons. That optimism, teamed with a growing consensus that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will maintain production levels at its Wednesday meeting, sent crude futures down $1.26, or 2%, to close at $62.41 a barrel. OPEC, which pumps 40% of the world's crude, has been toying with the possibility of slashing its quotas to prop up prices. Ministers from eight of OPEC's 11 member countries have said they would oppose cutting production. "OPEC should not take any decision to decrease production because any such decision would be the main reason for price hikes," Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al-Naimi told Al Hayat newspaper, Reuters reported. "We know the reason for the current increase in prices and it is the fear about anything that would cut supplies." Crude prices were declining despite renewed threats from Nigerian militants, who have already cut that country's petroleum production by one fifth, or 450,000 barrels a day. On Sunday, rebels vowed to increase their attacks with a goal of cutting another 1 million barrels per day. Nigeria pumps 2.4 million barrels per day, making it OPEC's sixth-largest producer. Militants have stepped up their campaign against oil companies through kidnappings and pipeline attacks as a way to weaken the central government. Nigeria receives the bulk of its money from oil exports. Crude's drop pulled down energy-related stocks, with the Amex Oil Index dipped 2.6%, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index declined 3.7%, and the Amex Natural Gas Index shed 3.3%. Heating oil declined 5 cents, or 3%, to $1.78 a gallon thanks to unseasonably warm weather. Lower heating demand has boosted supplies 14% over last year. Unleaded gasoline lost 8 cents, or 5%, to close at $1.65 a gallon. Natural gas dipped to a nine-month low of $6.55 per million British thermal units, a 24-cent decline, on warmer weather and high surpluses. Natural gas is used to generate electricity and power commercial and residential furnaces. Warmer-than-normal weather has slashed natural gas prices this winter and boosted fuel stockpiles by 21% over a year ago.