(EnergyAsia, March 31 2011, Thursday) — Oil prices could reach US$200 a barrel in the short term as a result of the political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the deadly earthquake in Japan on March 11, said Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

However, he has made clear that his forecast is for the short term only and is speculative.

Russia has assumed an oil price of US$80 per barrel under its current budget.

The 9-richter scale earthquake in northern Japan, which triggered a tsunami, has damaged or destroyed several nuclear plants and refineries, sharply raising the demand for imported oil products and other fuel.

The political situation in the MENA isn’t helping following violent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt led to the overthrow of two long-time Presidents.

Libya’s oil production has plunged to around 400,000 b/d from 1.6 million b/d at the start of the year since the outbreak of civil war early this month. The US, Europe and some Arab countries have launched military action to overthrow the regime of Mohamed Gaddafi.

The deadly ethnic riots in Sunni-dominated Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have led Iran warning that it might be forced to intervene if the Shia minorities were oppressed.

Saudi Arabia had sent soldiers to Bahrain earlier this month to shore up the regime of King Abdullah and crush the Shia uprising.