SINGAPORE, Jan 19 (AFP): Oil prices were slightly firmer in Asian trade today on persistent concerns over real and potential supply problems in key producers Iran and Nigeria, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, was up seven cents at 65.80 dollars a barrel from its close of 65.73 dollars in the United States Wednesday, where it had earlier struck 66.93 dollars-the highest level since September 22.
Iran, the second biggest crude exporter in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is facing possible United Nations sanctions over its nuclear programmeme, triggering concerns over supply from the Middle East producer, dealers said.
In defiance of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran last week broke the seals on a nuclear facility to resume research on uranium enrichment after a voluntary suspension.
Iran's move has intensified fears that the regime is seeking to make an atomic bomb. The country insists it only wants to make reactor fuel to generate electricity.
There are also concerns about supplies from Africa's biggest producer, Nigeria, where separatists blamed for a string of attacks on oil installations have called on foreign energy companies to leave.
The crisis in Nigeria has seen Shell cut its production by 211,000 barrels of oil per day, more than eight per cent of the country's total output.
"The two (Iran and Nigeria) combined have a sensitive impact on the market in the current situation," said Mark Pervan, a commodities analyst with Daiwa Securities in Melbourne, Australia.
However, the pressure on prices is likely to be limited due to the mild winter temperatures in the United States which has dampened demand for heating oil, dealers said.