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Oil prices rise ahead of Obama's Mideast trip

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Oil prices rose on Friday amid renewed concerns about the oil-rich Middle East ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next week and a fall in a key US consumer confidence reading.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April, closed at $93.45 a barrel, up 42 cents from Thursday.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in May climbed 86 cents to settle at $109.82 a barrel in London trade.

An unexpected fall in the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey "was a factor that kept the WTI from doing further gains," said Michael Lynch of Strategic Energy and Economic Research.

Obama's upcoming visit to Israel next week, expected to highlight tensions over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, was putting the market on edge, said James Williams of WTRG Economics.

Obama is due to arrive in Israel on March 20 for a three-day visit, his first since being elected president in 2008. The trip will also take him to the Palestinian territories.

"There will be a lot of noise about that," he said. "Nothing he will say will make prices go down."

On Thursday, Obama warned Tehran was close to getting a nuclear bomb and the US military option remained on the table.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 television, Obama laid out a clear timeline for Iran to acquire a military nuclear capacity, and said that Washington would not wait until the last minute to take action to stop it.

"We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously, we don't want to cut it too close," he said.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130315/oil-prices-rise-ahead-obamas-mideast-trip