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Mideast oil woes to hit Asia 1st: IEA

SINGAPORE -- Asia will be the first to feel the impact of any Middle East oil supply disruption as regional demand surges, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Monday.

IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in Singapore that most of the new oil demand in the next five years will come from Asia, the Middle East and former Soviet Union states.

“All this means a greater Asian dependence on the import of crude, often from regions considered politically risky,” she said.

“Asia is the main market outlet for Middle East crude so Middle East disruptions will touch Asia first,” she told delegates attending an international energy forum in Singapore.

Van der Hoeven said Asia would not be spared from disruptions even with increased production in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

With the U.S. economy struggling and the eurozone mired in a debt crisis, Asia has been leading global economic growth.

A British Petroleum world energy review issued in June showed the Middle East exported 72 percent of its crude to Asia in 2011, with China, India, Japan and Singapore among the major destinations.

However, trouble in the Middle East including Iran's saber-rattling over international sanctions linked to its nuclear program, Libya's civil war and ongoing violence in Syria have caused volatility in oil prices this year.

This month, the IEA forecast global oil demand will grow by half a million barrels a day less than previously estimated until 2016.

The International Monetary Fund has slashed its global growth forecast for 2012 to 3.3 percent, down from its July estimate of 3.5 percent.

The IMF said growth in Asia's developing economies would come in at 6.7 percent this year and 7.2 percent in 2013. That compares with July's estimate of 7.1 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.

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