SINGAPORE, May 8 (AFP): Oil prices rose in Asian trade today as tensions between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme continued to stir the market ahead of a key meeting among world powers, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for June delivery was up 32 cents at 70.51 dollars a barrel from its close of 70.19 dollars in New York Friday.
Brent North Sea crude for June delivery was at 70.80 dollars, up 70 cents.
Iranian leaders said Sunday that the involvement of the UN Security Council was directing the negotiations on its nuclear programme "towards confrontation".
"Geo-political risk in Iran is a major driver of the market; it will continue to be major driver this year," said Daruisz Kowalczyk, a senior strategist with CFC Seymour in Hong Kong.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to host counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia as well as European Union policy chief Javier Solana at a meeting today on the Iran issue.
Iran adamantly claims that its nuclear enrichment processes are for strictly peaceful purposes.
Russia and China, which have veto powers as permanent members of the Security Council and see Iran as a strategic trading partner, earlier opposed sanctions and the use of force against Tehran.
But analyst Kowalczyk said the meeting could convince China and Russia to back the Franco-British draft resolution, which could call for sanctions against Iran for non-compliance.
Kowalczyk said that despite the escalating tensions between the West and Iran, he expects the market to decline in the shorter-term.
US gasoline (petrol) reserves rose 2.1 million barrels to 202.7 million in the week to April 28, according to the United States Department of Energy.
Hurricane Katrina devastated oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico last August, sending oil prices to a then record high of 70.85 dollars a barrel.
Meanwhile in London, The price of oil firmed today as tensions between the West and Iran over its nuclear energy programme continued to worry the market of a key meeting of world powers, dealers said.