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Oil lifted to $73 by real and threatened supply cuts


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UPDATE 4-Oil lifted to $73 by real and threatened supply cuts


* Lower Iran exports, OPEC cuts support prices

* Market shrugs off rise in U.S. crude inventories

* North Sea supply cuts boost Brent

* OPEC-led panel meets on Sunday to review supply pact (Updates prices, adds detail on North Sea outages)

By Alex Lawler

LONDON, May 17 (Reuters) - Oil edged higher to $73 a barrelon Friday, supported by a host of supply cuts and concern offurther disruption to Middle East shipments as tensions rise,and was heading for a weekly gain.

U.S. sanctions on Iran have cut the OPEC member's crudeexports further in May, adding to supply curbs resulting from an OPEC-led pact. Meanwhile, rising tension in the Middle Eastthis week has raised concern about additional supply disruption.

Brent crude LCOc1 was up 43 cents to $73.05 a barrel at1101 GMT. The global benchmark is up about 3 percent this week,having ended last week steady and fallen the week before. U.S.West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 added 60 cents to $63.47.

"The Middle East is acting as a tinderbox for conflict,"said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM. "So long as thisremains the case, the energy complex will continue to besupported by bullish supply-side signals."

The mounting tension overshadowed bearish developments foroil prices this week, such as an unexpected increase in U.S.crude inventories.

A Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen carried out severalair strikes on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday afterthe Iranian-aligned movement claimed responsibility for droneattacks on two Saudi oil pumping stations. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL5N22S0X4

Earlier this week, staff were evacuated from the U.S.embassy in Baghdad, while U.S. President Donald Trump orderedthe deployment of an aircraft carrier group, B-52 bombers andPatriot missiles to the Middle East.

"When tensions are this high, with the U.S. deploying asizable military force, even a mistake or a tactical error byIran could ignite the Middle East powder keg," Stephen Innes,head of trading and market strategy at SPI Asset Management,told Reuters by email.

"There are lots of supply risks with tensions this high."

Besides the drop in Iranian exports, Russian shipments havebeen disrupted and the North Sea - home to the crudeunderpinning Brent futures - is seeing tighter supply due tooilfield maintenance and outages. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL5N22S6QP

The market is also awaiting a decision from the Organizationof the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producersover whether to continue with supply cuts that have boostedprices more than 30% so far this year.

A meeting of an OPEC-led ministerial committee in SaudiArabia this weekend will assess member states' commitment totheir deal reducing oil production and may make a recommendationon whether to extend or adjust the pact. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL5N22S456

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OPEC Oil Production Capacity png   https://tmsnrt.rs/2WJleV2
TECHNICALS-Brent oil may end bounce around $73.51-$73.80 range
 ID:nL4N22T09K
TECHNICALS-U.S. oil may rise further into $63.96-$64.90 range
 ID:nL4N22T0PZ
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(Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Colin Packham;Editing by Alexander Smith and Mark Potter) ((alex.lawler@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 4087; ReutersMessaging: alex.lawler.reuters.com@reuters.net))






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