Posted: 26 June 2009 0533 hrs

A man fills his car with petrol at a service station

NEW YORK - Oil prices rose back above 70 dollars Thursday as renewed violence in key crude producer Nigeria and a forecast of a higher price range sparked buying.

New York's main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, jumped 1.45 dollars to 70.12 dollars a barrel.

London's Brent North Sea crude for August rose 1.45 dollars to 69.78 dollars.

"The news from Nigeria (about) more attacks on oil facilities and the fact that two refineries are now shut down are supporting the market," said Andy Lipow, President at Lipow Oil Associates.

"The market has lived with Nigeria's supply disruption now for three years," he said.

Nigerian rebels on Thursday said they carried out a pre-dawn attack against Royal Dutch Shell facilities in a warning to Russia not to invest in the country's oil and gas industry.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said the attack was to coincide with a visit to Nigeria by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during which major energy investment deals were struck.

The attack on the Bille-Krakrama pipeline, which feeds the key Bonny export terminal in southern Rivers State, was carried out shortly after midnight Thursday.

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua meanwhile on Thursday gave militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta 60 days to accept an amnesty offer in a bid to halt attacks on international oil companies.

MEND, the main militant group in the oil-rich southern Nigeria, stages regular attacks on oil installations as part of its campaign for a fairer share of oil wealth for locals in the Delta region.

Nigeria's oil production has been cut by a quarter over the past three years because of the attacks.

Crude oil futures plunged from record high points of more than 147 dollars in July 2008 to about 32 dollars in December as the economic downturn ravaged energy demand but the market has since clawed back ground on recovery hopes.

Oil prices had lost ground over the past week amid signs of a broader consolidation in the 65-75 dollar range, analysts at Barclays Capital said in a note to clients.

"Accompanying the transition in the macroeconomic backdrop, the oil market is, in our view, moving towards a transition period of very gradually improving demand, falling inventories, and prices closer to the desired range of key producers, which we would place in the 75-85 dollars region," the report said.

"While the current phase of market rebalancing might need to reach a more advanced stage before prices can comfortably move into producers' desired range, that move, in our view, is set to happen sometime through the year, with the broad trend for prices likely remaining to the upside."

- AFP /ls

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