The price of a barrel of crude could double if the unrest in the Arab world deteriorates, oil trader turned British international development minister Alan Duncan warned Saturday.

Duncan, who has 30 years' business experience in the Gulf, told The Times newspaper that the price of a barrel of crude could top $200 (£123), well above the record high of $147 (£90) reached in July 2008.

If extremists used the instability in the Arab world to bomb oil tankers, pipelines or Saudi reserves, prices could even hit $250 (£154) a barrel, Duncan said.

The Times said analysts fear such highs could trigger another recession in Britain.

"I've been saying in government for two months... $200 is on the cards if this goes wrong, if anyone is reckless and foments unrest. All I'm predicting is danger," said Duncan.

"It could be very serious. If crude oil doubles, you're going to have a very serious spike (in petrol prices). Try living without it for a week."

The British government is under pressure over the price at the pumps, with 63 percent of the cost going to the exchequer.

If the worst happened, current prices of £1.30 ($2.10, 1.50 euros) a litre at the pump "could look like a luxury", Duncan said, warning of £4 a litre.

"A Twittered-up generation now has massive power. All Arab countries are moving on. But they are all different," he said.

"The powers are shifting but you can't do it overnight. We are asking them to do at the flick of a switch what we took centuries to do.

"The majority of these rulers are not dictators. These are countries with their own history and cultures. Who are we to lecture? We must treat these countries with respect."

The people who want all unelected leaders to go should remember Iran, Duncan said.

"It didn't work with the shah, we must pray it works in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

"At the moment this is secular, economic and demographic but if it goes wrong you will see Islamic fundamentalism becoming the only vehicle for people's grievances," he warned.