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Crude Oil Rises Amid Heightened Political Risks in Iraq, Iran

By Grant Smith and Alexander Kwiatkowski

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose for the first day in three on tensions in the oil-rich Middle East, as Iran signaled a tougher stance in nuclear program talks and Turkey considered military action in Iraq.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country's forces may attack Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq in ``days.'' Iran said it should set conditions for discussions with international agencies over its pursuit of nuclear technology.

``Although we believe in negotiations, we do not bargain over our rights,'' Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a visit to Armenia, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. Prime Minister Erdogan said today Turkey could use its military ``at any time'' to attack militants based in Iraq.

Crude oil for December delivery rose as much as 77 cents or 0.9 percent to $86.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract traded at $86.33 at 1:40 p.m. in London.

Brent crude oil for December settlement traded 37 cents higher at $83.64 on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Oil reached a record $90.07 a barrel in New York on Oct. 19 after the dollar fell against the euro and Turkish lawmakers voted to allow military action against the Kurdish rebels. Iraq holds the world's third-largest reserves of crude oil.

`Reason to Buy'

``The bulls are looking for a reason to buy and Iran is one thing which was on the backburner last week where now there's more fuel on the fire,'' said Gerrit Zambo, an oil trader at BayernLB in Munich.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered preparations for a possible military strike on bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Iraq, a move opposed by the U.S. Iraq holds the world's second-largest reserves of crude, after Saudi Arabia.

``Any conflict in the Middle East is bad news,'' said Simon Wardell, energy research manager with Global Insight Inc. in London. At the same time, ``there is not really as much supply under threat perhaps as the market would lead you to believe,'' he said. The country exports only limited quantities from its Kirkuk oilfields through the pipeline network to Turkey.

``Our analysis shows that if there is concern about the Kirkuk pipeline, it's not substantial,'' Nobuo Tanaka, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said in an interview in Moscow today.

Sliding Dollar

Oil, gold and silver prices have gained the past two months as the sliding U.S. dollar prompted investors to buy physical assets. The currency declined on speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut interest rates when it meets on Oct. 31 to help maintain growth in the world's biggest oil consumer.

U.S. crude oil inventories probably rose for a second time last week, gaining 475,000 barrels at Oct. 19, based on the median estimate from a Bloomberg News survey of six analysts.

Crude prices, while temporarily damped by reduced demand from refiners during seasonal maintenance and heightened economic growth concerns, are unlikely to fall further, analysts at Goldman Sachs Inc. led by London-based Jeffrey Currie said in a research note today.

``Downward price pressure on crude-oil prices will likely prove temporary'' as refiners restore operating rates and ``fundamentals remain tight,'' Goldman said.

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