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15 March 2012 - 21:09

Oil prices have climbed in the Asian trade markets on fresh worries over tensions between the Western countries and major oil producer, Iran.

New York's West Texas Intermediate crude, for February delivery, was up USD 1.50 at USD 100.20 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent North Sea oil, for delivery in March, also gained 58 cents to USD 111.92 per barrel.

Experts say a probable EU embargo on Iran oil imports is partly the reason for the rise in crude prices.

"The (European Union) embargo on Iranian oil could be brought forward, and this is supporting the increase in crude prices," said Victor Shum, an expert at Purvin and Gertz international energy consultants in Singapore.

On Thursday, an EU official said the bloc would probably postpone an embargo on the imports of Iranian oil, stressing that the sanctions could batter the already reeling EU economies.

An EU oil embargo on the imports of Iranian crude oil will likely be delayed for six months, said the official on the condition of anonymity.

The EU foreign ministers are expected to hold a meeting on January 23 to discuss the proposed embargo on Iran's oil exports.

EU members have so far failed to reach a final agreement on such details as the exact timing of the sanctions, and their diplomats say it may take months before sanctions actually enter into force given the critical economic conditions faced by the European countries.

EU countries purchase about 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, making the union one of the major markets for the country's crude exports.

On December 31, 2011, US President Barack Obama signed into law fresh economic sanctions against Iran's Central Bank requiring foreign financial firms to make a choice between doing business with Iran's Central Bank and oil sector or with the US financial sector.

US sanctions, as well as unilateral embargoes imposed on Iran's energy and financial sectors by Britain and Canada came after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report on Iranian nuclear program early November, accusing Tehran of seeking to weaponize its nuclear technology.

Despite the widely publicized claims by the US, Israel and some of their European allies that Iran's nuclear program may include a military diversion, Iran steadfastly insists on the civilian nature of its nuclear program, arguing that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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News ID 181600