LONDON -- World oil prices rebounded strongly on Friday following a critical report on Iran's nuclear energy program, which opened the door to sanctions or even military action against the world's fourth-biggest crude producer.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, surged by 1.08 dollars to 72.05 dollars per barrel in pit trade after earlier hitting 72.30 dollars.
In London, the price of Brent North Sea crude for June delivery soared by 1.06 dollars to 71.97 dollars per barrel in electronic deals after striking as high as 72.31 dollars.
Iran has failed to comply with a UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment, UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in a report on Friday that might lead to possible international sanctions.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had not met Friday's deadline to freeze its uranium enrichment work, which makes fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but can also produce nuclear weapons material.
Crude futures had traded in negative territory for much of Friday on receding worries over US motor oil supplies.
In recent weeks, US gasoline stocks have been a major cause of record high crude prices, alongside heightened tensions in key oil producers Iran and Nigeria. Strong global energy demand has also been a factor.
New York crude had hit 75.35 dollars per barrel on Monday -- matching a record level struck last Friday. Brent crude, meanwhile, had reached a historic peak of 74.79 dollars last Friday.
On Friday, ElBaradei's report said the IAEA had taken samples on April 13 at Iran's enrichment facility in Natanz "which tend to confirm as of that date the enrichment level (of 3.6 percent) declared by Iran."
The report added that Iran has failed to fully cooperate with UN inspectors trying to determine if Tehran's nuclear program is peaceful or weapons-related.
Forget supply and demand here folks! Having been raised on a steady diet of J.R. Ewing and Dallas, I know what's behind all this talk of sanctions and stuff. This is just a plot to make you and I and the rest of John Q. Public pay more and more at the pump. Right now, we're paying a "fear premium" for our energy, and I for one wish I had the option of refusing.