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Govt watching crude prices, will manage

New Delhi: Concerned over a spike in crude oil prices in international markets due to turmoil in the Middle East, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said the government is monitoring the situation and will manage it.

"Unfortunately, because of developments in the Middle East and its impact on the Arab world… (it) is causing uncertainty about production, about availability. We are watching the situation," Mukherjee told reporters here.

He said the Finance Ministry is in constant touch with its counterparts in the Petroleum Ministry on the unfolding situation.

He pointed out that India had managed the situation even when crude prices touched a record USD 147 per barrel in July, 2008.

"… At that time also, we had to manage the situation.

Government will take care of it (now)," Mukherjee said.

The FM`s comments come in the wake of massive protests in Egypt by demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

Similar protests have also erupted against the authoritarian regimes of other Arab nations like Yemen and Jordan. Last month, Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abedine ben Ali was deposed in an uprising that left 200 people dead.

The severe winter conditions in Europe and US had already pushed crude oil prices to a two-year high of over USD 90 per barrel in January, 2011.

Crude oil prices continued to rise in Asian trade today, with Brent crude within a whisker of breaching the USD 102 per barrel mark as the unrest in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East continued to weigh on the investor mood, analysts said.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for March delivery, gained 2 cents to USD 90.79 per barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for March delivery advanced by 25 cents to USD 101.99 per barrel, in Asian trade today.

In addition, the turmoil in Egypt pushed up the price of Brent crude price to an intra-day high of USD 102.08 per barrel yesterday, its highest level since late-September, 2008.

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