London — Oil prices hit a three-and-a-half-year high on Tuesday, supported by tight supply and planned US sanctions against Iran that are likely to restrict crude oil exports from one of the biggest producers in the Middle East. Benchmark Brent crude oil reached $78.60 a barrel, up 37c and its highest since November 2014. By 8am GMT, Brent was up 20c at $78.43. US light crude was 5c higher at $71.01 a barrel, also not far off its highest since November 2014. World oil prices have surged by more than 70% over the last year as demand has risen sharply but production has been restricted by oil cartel Opec, led by Saudi Arabia, and other key producers, including Russia. Now the US has announced that it will impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, raising fears that markets will face shortages later this year when trade restrictions come into effect. "The commitment of Saudi Arabia and the rest of Opec to the production cuts is a major factor in supporting the price at the m...

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