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Oil up in Asia on Gulf tensions

SINGAPORE (AFP) ― Crude rose in Asian trade Friday, pushed up by ongoing tensions in the oil-rich Gulf region and impact from Japan’s nuclear crisis, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, gained $1.65 to $103.07 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May was up $1.56 to $116.46.

“The initial reaction to Japan is a sharp drop in oil demand in the short-term,” said Jason Feer, analyst for Singapore-based Argus Media energy market analysts.

Tokyo shares ended the morning session up 1.77 percent Friday as investors welcomed a pledge by the Group of Seven major economies to stabilize currencies after Japan’s massive earthquake.
A fuel nozzle is placed into a vehicle at a filling station in this arranged photo in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. (Bloomberg)
A fuel nozzle is placed into a vehicle at a filling station in this arranged photo in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. (Bloomberg)

The Nikkei index rose 158.26 points to 9,120.93 by the break.

Unrest in crude-producing Libya is also a factor behind the surge in oil prices, analysts said.

The U.N. Security Council meeting voted Thursday to permit “all necessary measures” to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a cease-fire on Moammar Gadhafi’s military.

Enforcement will rely on air power as the resolution rules out sending ground troops.

“It is likely that U.S. and some Western countries may intervene in Libya, and as Gadhafi has the upper hand, it is closer to ending the civil war,” Feer said.

Libya was producing 1.69 million barrels a day before the unrest, according to the International Energy Agency. Of this 1.2 million were exported, mostly to Europe. Other major customers are China and the United States.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Bahrain rounded up dissidents Thursday as the United Nations warned of “shocking and illegal” abuses in the Gulf kingdom where the U.S.-backed Sunni Muslim rulers are waging a bloody crackdown on Shiite-led protesters.
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