Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

Oil price rises on Gaza conflict

An Israeli soldier kneels as he crosses the border into the Gaza Strip
Oil prices have risen as the conflict has escalated

The price of oil has risen briefly on fears of heightened tension in the Middle East following Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

US light, sweet crude peaked at $48.68 a barrel, before falling back to trade at $46.44, up 10 cents on the day.

The price of Brent crude was down one cent at $46.90 a barrel.

Opec sources have said that is is highly unlikely that the oil producers' cartel will follow Iran's call to boycott supporters of Israel.

Among Opec's biggest producers are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all of which have good relations with the United States.

Production cuts

An Iranian military commander had suggested earlier that oil supplies should be withheld to put pressure on Israel's allies.

Separately, Iran's Opec representative Mohammad Ali Khatibi said that the cartel would hold an extraordinary meeting in Kuwait in February.

Opec has already agreed to production cuts of 4.2 million barrels per day, but prices have not risen in response.

There remains concern among traders about how severely the deepening downturn will reduce global demand for oil.

Traders have also been worried about the continuing gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Several EU countries have reported a drop in supplies after Russia cut off gas to Ukraine on New Year's Day in a row over unpaid bills and a new price contract.

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