Oil prices extend gains in Asian trade

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Singapore, Mar 19: Oil prices extended gains in Asia today, supported by concerns over Middle East supply and signs of stabilisation in the world economy, analysts said. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for delivery in April, gained 24 cents to USD 107.30 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was up 18 cents at USD 125.99 in morning trade.

On Friday, WTI crude advanced USD 1.95 at its close and Brent crude surged a hefty USD 3.21. "Middle Eastern tensions have pushed up prices," said Justin Harper, market strategist for IG Markets Singapore. A key Iranian lawmaker yesterday declared that Tehran would not offer any concessions on its nuclear programme, amid heightening friction between the West and the Islamic republic.

"The parliament will never allow the government to go back even one step in its nuclear policy," Aladin Borujerdi, the head of Iran's parliamentary foreign policy commission, told the official IRNA news agency. His comments came ahead of expected talks agreed to by Iran and the P5+1 group of powers -- the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

Tehran has been hit by a wave of sanctions on its oil and finance sectors, as the West looks to force the country to abandon its nuclear programme. Iran has maintained that the programme is for peaceful purposes, while the West suspects its research is for designing nuclear weapons -- a sentiment echoed in a November report by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

AFP

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