Simmering Heat

Audrey Azoulay

SINGAPORE, June 12, 2006 (AFP) - Oil prices were easier in Asian trade Monday, with the market waiting for the next lead on tensions over Iran's controversial nuclear programme after a fresh spike Friday, dealers said.
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At 10:30 am (0230 GMT), New York's main contract, light sweet crude for July delivery, was down 11 cents to 71.52 US dollars a barrel from its close of 71.63 dollars in the United States on Friday.

Brent North Sea crude for July delivery was at 70.50 dollars, up two cents.

"The Iranian situation is bearish now; people in the trading community believe that it is now down to protracted negotiations," said Tony Nunan, a Tokyo-based energy risk manager with Mitsubishi Corp.

For months, Iran's controversial nuclear programme has driven prices up on concerns that any international sanctions on the Islamic republic, the world's fourth largest oil producer, would disrupt crude supplies.

Washington and its allies fear that Iran's nuclear energy program is a clandestine drive to acquire nuclear weapons.

Tehran however, insists that its program is strictly for civilian purposes.

"The Iranian situation gives a high floor (for) oil prices depending on the rhetoric coming from either side," said

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