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Monday, 5 January 2009

Calls to use oil as weapon in Gaza fight fall flat

The call to use oil as a weapon against Israel's friends once would have echoed in capitals across the Middle East. But even as fighting widens in Gaza, threats of an oil embargo by some in Iran and Bahrain are falling flat.

Key Persian Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia and even top officials in the countries behind the boycott calls are keeping quiet, reflecting a focus on their struggle to deal with the steep plunge in world oil prices.

"An oil embargo is just bad for business," said Serene Gardiner, oil products analyst at Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai.

On Sunday, Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander as urging Muslim countries to use oil as a weapon to pressure an end to Israel's offensive in Gaza.

Iran's foreign ministry didn't distance itself from Brig. Gen. Mirfaysal Bagherzadeh's comments when asked about them Monday. "We do support any action for realizing two main steps: an immediate stop to the invasion and an end to the Gaza blockade," spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said.

But Bagherzadeh is not among the top oil officials in Iran, OPEC's second-biggest producer, and his suggestions drew no comment from those leaders. More

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