Oil stays high in Asia on Middle East tension

Oil was down but well supported in Asian trade Friday as persistent tensions in the Middle East and north Africa continued to push prices higher, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, fell 19 cents to $86.17 per barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery edged down five cents to $102.54.

“I think that crude oil prices could again be boosted by unrest around the Middle East and North Africa,” said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Tensions around the region continued to persist Friday, with several deaths in Libya and Bahrain as security forces clashed with anti-regime protesters.

Crime spiralled in the capital city of post-uprising Tunisia and Egypt’s military leadership assumed what it said would be temporary control over the Arab world’s most populous nation.

In Algeria, senior former regime leader Abdelhamid Mehri urged President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to implement sweeping political changes as pro-democracy protests took root in the country.

Tensions in the Middle East and north Africa, home to major Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, tend to push oil prices higher as traders worry over the potential for supply disruption.