Oil prices creep up on fears of Middle East turmoil

Published October 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Oil prices went up again here Friday on fears that continuing violence between Israel and the Palestinians could result in a disruption of oil supplies to the West. 


The price of a barrel of light sweet crude for November delivery rose 84 cents to $33.75 amid reports of new clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between Palestinian stone-throwing youths and Israeli troops. 


A barrel of crude was selling for $32.91 late Thursday. In London, Brent North Sea crude for December delivery was selling for $31.09 a barrel after closing at $30.74 on Thursday. 


Analysts attributed the jitters on the oil markets to concerns that Arab nations, during their weekend summit in Cairo, could decide to use oil as a weapon to put pressure on Israel and its supporters in the Western world.  


Kuwait moved to calm these fears Friday, saying that use of oil in the struggle against Israel was not in the interest of Arabs. "I believe that it is not in the interests of Arabs to stop the oil now, because we might starve more than others," acting Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah told reporters before leaving for Cairo. 


At the same time, Kuwait made it clear it was prepared to stop the crude flow if it felt it was the only way to advance the Arab cause in their conflict with Israel. 


"But if oil is the only means to restore Arab rights, Kuwait will be the first to use it," said Sheikh Sabah, who will represent the oil-rich emirate at the emergency Arab summit due to open in the Egyptian capital Saturday. 


But the leader of the Lebanon-based radical Islamic militia Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in an ABC television interview Thursday, said the oil weapon would be the most effective tool in the hands of Arabs against Israel and its supporters.  


"They can stop oil exports and demand from the UN a clear condemnation of the Israeli massacres," said Nasrallah of the Arab leaders gathering in Cairo.  


"And the UN would certainly intervene, and the massacres would stop in Palestine," he added. The Arab leaders were, meanwhile, planning limited "measures" against Israel while reaffirming peace as "a strategic choice," according to diplomats involved in preparations for the Arab summit. 


They said a draft document to be issued at the end of the Arab League summit calls on Arab countries that have relations with Israel, but not a peace treaty, to "stop all relations and all cooperation" with the Jewish state. 


Those countries are Qatar, Oman, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania, which would have to close or freeze activities at the trade or interests missions they have exchanged with Israel, the diplomats said.—AFP. 

©--Agence France Presse. 


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