Oil prices plunge to massive lows,
Commons debate pulls through
Oil prices have dived to their lowest level in two months
after President Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his coterie of generals
just 48 hours to leave Iraq. Husseins crisp answer has been in
the negative, with attack on Iraq now imminent.
Industry benchmark Brent crude shed US$2.78 to US$26.70 a barrel, its
lowest point since January, as stock markets continued their volatile
trend of recent weeks.
The looming air bombardment and ground invasion of Iraq has threatened
to interrupt oil supplies and send prices soaring.
Many fear an invasion would spark turmoil in the Middle East, which
supplies two-fifths of globally traded crude.
Higher crude oil prices have a knock-on effect on the wider economy,
pushing up prices for petrol, heating oil and other fuels which in turn
raise the cost of energy and transport.
But traders are now betting on a short and decisive war that will not
hit oil supplies outside Iraq. Nervous dealers continued to keep a close
eye on diplomatic developments in search of clues as to when military
action could begin.
The short-term security of supply has been a key theme in the build
up to war. Some analysts now seem confident the war will be contained
within Iraq, the world's seventh-largest oil supplier.
For the Bush administration however, it seems the road to Baghdad is
linked to economic recovery, with observers predicting that launching
a war on Iraq will actually fire up the stock market, triggering a revival
of the US economy.
It is also expected that military victory will unleash latent economic
forces, which should also guarantee Bush a revival of vigour come re-election
On the other side of the Atlantic, a resolved Blair remains oblivious
to the murmurs in the backbenches at the House of Commons, awaiting
the penultimate vote on his case against Iraq.
His other opponents, apart from an overwhelming public disapproval at
Blairs gung-ho plunge into Americas war, include the Liberal
Democrats, Britains third party in the House of Commons.
Iain Duncan Smiths Tories are well behind Mr Blair: "Let
me just say, Madam Speaker, why we back Mr Blairs case against
Iraq. Not because we endorse every detail, not certainly because we
are eager for conflict
but as the House knows, I have served in
the armed forces myself and I know of the horror of the aftermath of
"Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a murderer, and poses a threat
to the safety and stability of the Middle East."
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy told MPs: "We do not believe
that there is a case for war that has been established in the absence
of a second resolution.
"There stands no contradiction between giving voice to legitimate
anxiety and at the same time, as and when exchange of fire commences,
looking to the rest of the country to give full moral support to our
Mr Kennedy said the Tory Government had provided the Iraqi dictator
with anthrax and other chemical weapons and had approved the construction
of dual-use factories in Iraq.
Mr Kennedy told MPs: "I have never once been persuaded as to any
link between the Iraqi regime, al Qaida and 11 September. I do believe
the impact of war under these circumstances is bound to weaken the international
coalition against terrorism itself - not least in the Muslim world."