Oil up in Asia as UN approves Libyan air strikes

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World oil prices surged in Asian trade Friday after the United Nations sanctioned air strikes against Libya and France said military action would come within hours.

French government spokesman Francois Baroin said that France would take part in the military strikes against forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, gained $1.65 to $103.07 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May was up $1.56 to $116.46.

"It is likely that US and some western countries may intervene in Libya, and as Kadhafi has the upper hand, it is closer to ending the civil war," said Jason Feer of Singapore-based Argus Media energy market analysts.

The United Nations on Friday voted 10-0 to pass a resolution approving "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and pressure the veteran Libyan leader into accepting a ceasefire.

Permanent members China and Russia -- who did not wield their vetoes -- plus Germany, Brazil and India abstained.

After the announcement, Kadhafi -- who earlier threatened to unleash his forces on rebel stronghold Benghazi -- decided to hold off on plans to mercilessly crush all resistance.

Libya was producing 1.69 million barrels a day before the unrest, according to the International Energy Agency, of which 1.2 million were exported, mostly to Europe. The other major customers are China and the United States.

Unrest in oil-producing Bahrain also contibuted to the market jitters.

Bahrain's security forces rounded up dissidents Thursday as the United Nations warned of "shocking and illegal" abuses in the Gulf kingdom, where the US-backed Sunni Muslim rulers are waging a bloody crackdown on Shiite-led protesters.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned Bahrain the crackdown might be breaking international law, and called on King Hamad on Thursday to express his "deepest concern" about the use of force.

© 2011 AFP

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