UPDATE 6-Oil tumbles on long liquidation, gasoline leads
* China July crude imports hit record high of 6.15 mln bpd
* North Sea crude exports to rise in September
* Worker protests spread in Libya, reduce oil output
* U.S. crude inventories down 1.3 mln bbls last week -EIA
(Recasts top, adds details, new quote, updates prices.)
NEW YORK, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Crude oil prices on both sides of the Atlantic dropped sharply on Thursday, falling for the fifth straight session as traders liquidated long positions and followed gasoline futures prices lower.
U.S. RBOB gasoline futures tumbled to a one-month low at $2.81 per gallon and led the oil complex lower, traders and analysts said.
"Gasoline production is way too high. It's weighing on WTI and weighing on the Brent market," said Andy Lebow, vice president at Jefferies Bache.
Front-month Brent crude oil was trading $1.28 per barrel lower at $106.16 by 1:01 p.m. EDT (1701 GMT), having rebounded from an earlier low of $105.85. U.S. crude was down $1.62 at $102.75, after trading as low as $102.22.
Brent crude oil prices had pared some losses in afternoon trading after some tensions were reported in the Middle East.
Israel shut its southernmost Eilat airport near Egypt's Sinai peninsula until further notice as violence in the Sinai has surged since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3.
NORTH SEA SUPPLY/U.S. DATA
Exports from the North Sea are scheduled to rise in September following maintenance and that offset bullish news that imports of crude oil into China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, hit a record high.
"The North Sea is one of the main drivers today ... the increasing supplies are having an effect," said Bjarne Schieldrop, an analyst at SEB.
Further decreases in crude stockpiles in top consumer the United States also had little positive effect. Inventories declined by 1.32 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration.
While U.S. jobless claims rose slightly last week, they were near their lowest level since before the financial crisis.
Oil market participants are also concerned that if the U.S. Federal Reserve rolls back its monetary stimulus - which could happen next month.
"I think that some of the factors that drove us to 1 and 1/2 year highs are retreating, and that we are back to Fed-watching," said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
IRAN SOFTENS, LIBYA WEIGHS
Iran's new president signalled willingness to negotiate with the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
Tightening supplies in major producers Iraq and Libya kept losses in check.
In Libya, workers' protests remain a key concern. Output of its main crude oil grade, Es Sider, has been shut since Tuesday, along with the fields producing Amna and Sirtica, following strikes at the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals.
Libya's production is expected to fall further as workers at its Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) plan to progressively reduce output in protest over management changes and the company's structure.
Also contributing to lower supply is Iraq, where exports are set to fall sharply in September as major work is carried out at its vital southern export terminals.
In Yemen, the government said on Wednesday it had foiled a plot by al Qaeda to seize two major oil and gas export terminals and a provincial capital in the east of the country, while U.S. drone strikes killed eight suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Peg Mackey in London, Florence Tan in Singapore and Robert Gibbons and Nicolas Medina Mora Perez in New York.; editing by James Jukwey and Gunna Dickson)