OIL-Crude falls, the market is caught between talks with Iran and Ukraine crisis

By Ahmad Ghaddar

LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Crude prices fell on Thursday as talks to revive a nuclear deal with Iran entered their final stages, but losses were limited by heightened tensions over Ukraine between the West. and Russia, a major energy exporter.

* By 0914 GMT, Brent crude was down $1.26, or 1.3%, at $93.55 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $1.34, or 1.34%, to $92.32.

* Both contracts fell more than 2% earlier in the session.

* “(The) oil market is caught in a tug-of-war between Iranian sanctions relief and tensions between Russia and Ukraine,” said Stephen Brennock of brokerage PVM Oil.

* The United States is “in the midst of the final stages” of indirect talks with Iran, aimed at salvaging a 2015 deal limiting Tehran’s nuclear activities, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday.

* France said on Wednesday that a decision to salvage the nuclear deal was only days away and that it was up to Iran to make the political decision, though Tehran called on Western powers to be “realistic.”

* However, ongoing tensions over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to support oil markets due to potential disruption to energy supplies.

* Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine said government forces in Kiev used mortars to attack their territory on Thursday in violation of agreements aimed at avoiding conflict, the Russian state news agency RIA said.

* Russia’s announcement of a partial troop withdrawal near Ukraine this week was refuted by Western governments that warned Russia was increasing its military presence near the Ukrainian border.

(Additional reporting by Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)

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