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Experts: Instability in Iran, Iraq Threatens Gulf Oil Supply

A panel of oil experts, including an ambassador from a producing nation, warned this week growing militancy in the Middle East poses a threat to world oil markets. The forum, hosted by a conservative think tank in the U.S. raised concerns about the continued flow of Persian Gulf oil, not only to America but also to the rest of the world. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

With oil prices approaching $100 a barrel, major oil exporting countries are expected to take in $700 billion this year.

Bahrain's ambassador to the United States Naser Belooshi says the war in Iraq and Iran's quest for nuclear supremacy threatens the future prosperity of the region.

"Even oil-rich countries need political stability. Money alone cannot bring about development. Oil-rich countries also need the know-how and the technology. These two elements can not be transferred and operated without political stability," he said.

Although he was critical of Iran's nuclear program and its support of militant groups, Belooshi warns that another military conflict in the region could push oil prices to astronomical levels.

Ariel Cohen, a foreign policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation says unchecked, the continuing conflicts could significantly reduce the world's oil supply just as demand is rising.

"What happens today is not that there's not enough oil in the ground," said Cohen. "What happens today is that political instability or unwise policies create conditions in which there is not enough investment in oil and gas."

Forum panelist Gal Luft at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security says growing tensions between Sunni and Shiite groups have already stunted the development of refineries and pipelines that keep the oil flowing.

"Clearly when Sunni's and Shiites are at odds with each other, and there is tension and violence, that affects access to resources and Ariel is right, that affects investment," Luft said.

The forum comes as ministers for key Middle East oil-producing countries are meeting in Asia to discuss critical oil market issues.