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Oil Prices Hit New High, OPEC Chief Says $200 a Barrel Possible


Crude oil prices edged closer to 120 dollars a barrel and hit a new, record high, fueled by the shutdown of a key pipeline and concerns about violence in Nigeria.

Crude oil for June delivery hit $119.93 cents a barrel in New York Monday, before easing downward slightly in later trading.

Oil prices surged after Britain closed a North Sea oil pipeline, which carries about 40 percent of the country's oil, due to a worker strike. There are also concerns about new attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries says oil prices could go as high as $200 a barrel.

According to the Reuters news agency, OPEC chief Chakib Khelil told Algeria's government newspaper, El Moudjahid, the high prices are a result of the dollar's slide, and have little to do with oil supplies.

The record oil prices come as some economists expect two of the world's biggest oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, to announce record first-quarter profits.

In Britain, officials have arranged to bring in extra fuel supplies to make up for shortages caused by the strike. Seven tankers carrying about 65,000 tons of fuel are due to arrive in the next few days.

Britain has seen prices at gas stations rise as consumers have ignored pleas from the government and rushed to buy gasoline before supplies run out.

In Nigeria, attacks on oil facilities are just part of the problem. The Nigerian government is trying to mediate a worker's strike at the Exxon Mobil affiliate. The facility normally produces 800,000 barrels a day, but workers walked off the job, demanding better pay and working conditions.

Also today, the anti-corruption group Transparency International issued a report criticizing oil and gas companies for failing to fight corruption.

The report rated 42 companies, saying most do not disclose enough information on their dealings with resource-rich countries, hampering efforts to eliminate poverty.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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