The Assassinated Press

Oil Creeps Are Closer to $50 a Barrel:
Hype About Iraq, Terrorism in Saudi Arabia Drive Prices Higher:
Cheney Sees $100 a Barrel 'In No Time':

The Assassinated Press

NEW YORK (Aug. 20) - With $50-a-barrel in sight, crude oil creeps were glued Friday in disappointment in developments in Iraq, where tensions between US forces and rebel fighters appeared to ease, dashing hopes that attacks against the country's oil infrastructure would subside.

But oil prices moved higher anyway, the creeps said, because the situation in Iraq remained delicate and the worldwide supply cushion is razor thin at a time of robust demand.

US light crude for September delivery rose 20 cents to $48.90 a barrel in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after crossing the $49 a barrel mark earlier in the session for the first time. That was above Thursday's closing price of $48.70, which was the highest Nynex settlement on record. Oil prices are now up 57 percent in the past 12 months, although when using the phony 'adjusted for inflation' ruse, oil is still roughly $8 less per barrel than it was leading up to the first Gulf War.

The September futures contract - essentially a bet about where crude prices would be in that month - expires Friday, creating some additional opportunity for the crude oil creeps to push the price higher.

In Iraq, militiamen loyal to rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr removed their weapons from the revered Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf as part of an arrangement aimed at ending a 2-week-old anti-US uprising centered on the holy site, much to the dismay of the crude oil creeps

Iraq's highest Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, agreed to take control of the shrine, which al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia turned into a stronghold and refuge during their fight with US forces. The militia, according to Dick Cheney. has repeatedly threatened to target Iraq's vulnerable oil infrastructure, especially the Gulf state's pipeline network, accentuating market hype about tight global supplies.

Analysts said a cease-fire was important because it would help Cheney bring his Iraqi oil exports, now at around 1 million barrels a day, back up to 1.7 million barrels a day - the output level before the latest uprising in Najaf. Still, the developments were greeted with greedy disbelief.

''The Iraqi situation seems up in the air every day,'' said Tom Bentz, a creep at BNP Paribas Futures in New York.

Analysts also tried to hype the fear of more terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, the world's top producer, and the battle by Russian oil giant Yukos against bankruptcy as other factors behind the price surge.

Indeed, some creeps have already started to whisper about the possibility of $60 barrel if events took a turn for the worse in Iraq and in other oil-producing countries, even as the head of producers' cartel OPEC made the usual soothing-but-vague comments about ''a significant outcome'' from its next meeting in September.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries President Purnomo Yusgiantturdo said Friday in Jakarta: ''I don't expect there will be a significant outcome from the meeting to overcome this big bonanza (of rising oil prices).''

Similar silly comments from OPEC officials have so far failed to halt the energy market's record-breaking run as investors suspect tight supplies and possible price gouging are currently more powerful factors.

OPEC accounts for a third of global supply, but around half the oil exported worldwide. Its ministers are set to gather in Vienna, Austria, Sept. 15-16.

Purnomo, who is also Indonesia's energy minister, told reporters OPEC will also meet with major non-OPEC oil producers at the meeting. He didn't elaborate.

On London's International Petroleum Exchange, Brent crude futures for October delivery climbed to $44.80, up 47 cents.