Oil prices rose to new nine-month highs on Friday as concerns persisted that an insurgency in Iraq could disrupt oil exports from the second-largest OPEC producer.
The surge in both Brent and U.S. crude prices this week lost some momentum on Friday as the market waited to see if the conflict in Iraq would escalate to civil war.
Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric urged his followers to take up arms to defend themselves against the advancing Sunni militants, potentially escalating the conflict. Most of Iraq's current oil exports come from south of Baghdad, still far from the Islamist rebel fighters. Should they reach south of the capital, analysts expect them to encounter much greater resistance.
Iraqi exports from the north are considered safe for the moment, analysts said, as the major Kirkuk oil hub is held by Kurdish forces.