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Oil prices push higher as Iraq refinery battle weighs on supply fears

The price of oil climbed Thursday as Iraqi troops and Islamic insurgents battled for control of the country's largest oil refinery.

By late Thursday the refinery remained in government hands. All of the facility's output is used domestically so crude production and exports aren't affected. But the violence underscores how the fighting may threaten the energy infrastructure that Iraq is rebuilding to meet global demand.

The price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery rose 46 cents to $106.43 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 80 cents to US$115.06 a barrel in London, setting a fresh nine-month high.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama said he was dispatching up to 300 U.S. military advisers to help quell the insurgency in Iraq. Though not specifically mentioning airstrikes, Obama also said he was leaving open the possibility of "targeted and precise military action" in the future.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, wholesale gasoline rose three cents to US$3.13 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil rose one cent to US$3.05 a gallon and natural gas fell eight cents to US$4.58 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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