Instead, both sides urged energy markets to consider a Saudi plan, unveiled in February, to raise its oil output gradually, to 12.5 million barrels per day over the next few years and possibly up to 15 million if needed.

“The crown prince understands that it is very important (to) make sure that the price is reasonable. A high oil price will damage markets, and he knows that,” President Bush told reporters before welcoming Prince Abdullah at his Texas ranch.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Last week President Bush promised to get a “straight answer” on how much more oil Saudi Arabia could get to the market.

But on Monday officials from both sides wouldn’t confirm that he sought such information.

The US leader, who has said he does not have a “magic wand” to reduce oil prices, has seen his job approval ratings drop sharply over the past few months as American consumers pay higher prices at the gas pump.

A senior Saudi official said Riyadh believes global oil prices were too high but boosting the kingdom’s output would not necessarily lead to lower US gas prices.

“It will not make a difference if Saudi Arabia ships an extra million or two million barrels of crude oil to the United States. If you cannot refine it, it will not turn into gasoline and it will not turn into lower prices,” he said.

Both leaders also had what was described as “a general discussion” about democratic reforms in the Middle East.

Mr Bush praised unprecedented elections recently held in Saudi Arabia to choose half the members of municipal councils.

Islamist candidates triumphed and women were barred from voting.

The two leaders also discussed the war on terrorism, the pace of democratic reforms in the Middle East, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Washington and Riyadh recommitted to helping Iraqis set up a government and urged the war-torn country’s neighbours not to interfere in its internal affairs.

Both countries also say they’re on the verge of a bilateral trade agreement that would allow the Gulf nation to join the World Trade Organisation by the end of the year.