* Minutes of Fed's Dec. 10-11 policy meeting due at 1900 GMT * SPDR Gold holdings rise to highest since Nov. 29 * Dollar hits 9-week low against safe-haven yen (Adds comments, updates prices) By Diptendu Lahiri Jan 3 (Reuters) - Gold prices jumped 1% to a four-month high on Friday as tensions flared in the Middle East after a senior Iranian military official was killed in a U.S. air strike, sparking safe-haven bids. Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in the air strike on their convoy at Baghdad airport. "News from the Middle East along with some technical buying and a weaker dollar is supporting gold prices today," said Benjamin Lu, analyst at Phillip Futures. Spot gold hit its highest since Sept. 5 at $1,543.66, and was up 0.8% at $1,540.80 per ounce by 0733 GMT. U.S. gold futures gained about 1% to $1,543.30 per ounce. For the week, spot gold has gained about 2%, heading for a fourth consecutive weekly increase. Gold is considered to be a safe investment in times of political and economic uncertainties. Supporting the metal further, the dollar slipped to a nine-week low against the safe-haven yen on tensions in the Middle East. "After the recent escalations in geopolitical issues, we see a resistance level near the $1,575 level for the next week," said Jigar Trivedi, a commodities analyst at Anand Rathi Shares & Stock Brokers in Mumbai. "In case, there is profit-booking prices may fall to the $1,520 level but it is better to be long on gold, as there is a lot of potential for the metal to rise further." Asian shares slipped, erasing early gains on heightening geopolitical tensions, and boosting the metal's appeal. Investors now await the minutes of the Federal Reserve's Dec. 10-11 policy meeting, due at 1900 GMT. Lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion. Indicative of investor sentiment, holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust , rose 0.23% to 895.30 tonnes on Thursday, its highest since Nov. 29. Among other precious metals, silver hit a more than two-month high of $18.25 and was last up 0.8% at $18.17 per ounce, while platinum rose 0.4% to $982.66, heading for about 4% weekly gain. Palladium climbed 0.3% to $1,964.87, on track for a more than 3% weekly gain. (Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
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