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Army must do more to protect pipeline: Iraq deputy PM
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) June 01, 2014

Iraq oil exports continue rebound in May: ministry
Baghdad (AFP) June 01, 2014 - Iraqi oil exports rose for a second consecutive month in May, figures showed Sunday, despite a northern pipeline remaining disabled and a central government row with the country's Kurdish region.

Crude exports averaged around 2.58 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, all of which were shipped from Iraq's southern export terminals, the oil ministry said in a statement.

The sales raised $8.68 billion in revenues.

The average daily exports marked an increase from April's figure of 2.50 million bpd, but fell short of February's multi-decade high of 2.80 million bpd.

Exports in Iraq have been hit by persistent militant attacks on a pipeline connecting the northern province of Kirkuk to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

The pipeline has been disabled since early March, and it is not expected to be up and running for several days.

At its peak, it was carrying upwards of 500,000 bpd to international markets via Turkey.

Exports have also been limited by a row between the central government and the autonomous northern Kurdish region.

Iraqi Kurdistan shipped oil to international markets via Turkey last month, sparking a furious response from Baghdad, which insists such shipments without the expressed consent of the central government constitute smuggling.

Iraq has filed an arbitration case against Turkey at the Paris-based International Criminal Court and has threatened legal action against any companies which buy the oil.

Iraq's draft 2014 budget calls for the Kurdish region to export around 400,000 bpd.

Oil revenues account for the lion's share of government income, and the authorities are seeking to dramatically ramp them up to fund much-needed reconstruction of Iraq's conflict-battered economy and infrastructure.

Iraq's army must do more to protect a northern oil pipeline and should pay as much attention to it as it does to fighting militants, Iraq's top energy official told AFP Sunday.

The rare criticism of the security forces comes with the pipeline, which connects the northern province of Kirkuk to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, having been disabled for three months as a result of militant attacks as the army grapples with a year-long nationwide surge in violence.

"I have pointed out repeatedly that this -- protection of the export pipeline -- should be a national priority, no less than confronting the terrorists in Fallujah or elsewhere," Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy prime minister responsible for energy affairs, said in an interview.

He was referring to battles between security forces and anti-government fighters who have held sway over Fallujah, a city a short drive west of Baghdad, since the beginning of the year.

"I believe the army should have taken more action to protect these pipelines than they have done so far," Shahristani said, speaking from his office in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone.

He said the army was expected to have had a new specialised division dedicated to protecting the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline up and running by the end of March, but the required arms and equipment had yet to arrive.

"Unless the army can provide sufficient protection along with the oil police, the chances are that the pipeline could be attacked," Shahristani said.

The pipeline, which at its peak in 2011 was pumping upwards of 500,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), has been disabled since early March and while repairs are currently being carried out, it is not expected to be functional for several more days.

Shahristani's remarks came as Iraq announced that oil exports had increased for a second month running to 2.58 million bpd, all shipped from the country's southern export terminals.

His comments mark a rare criticism of the Iraqi army, which has been grappling with a year-long surge in bloodshed that has left more than 4,000 people dead already this year, according to an AFP tally.

In particular, Iraq's security forces have struggled to wrest back control of Fallujah, which has been out of government control for months.

The crisis in the desert province of Anbar, which borders Syria and of which Fallujah is a part, began in late December when security forces dismantled a longstanding protest camp maintained by the province's mainly Sunni Arab population to vent grievances against the government.

Militants subsequently seized parts of the provincial capital Ramadi and all of Fallujah, the first time anti-government forces have exercised such open control in major cities since the peak of the deadly violence that followed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

They have held all of Fallujah since, and protracted battles have continued for Ramadi.


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Turkey 'driven by greed' in Kurd oil row: Iraq deputy PM
Baghdad (AFP) June 01, 2014
Ankara has been "driven by greed" in an escalating row over oil pumped from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and shipped overseas via Turkey, Baghdad's top energy official told AFP Sunday. Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy prime minister for energy affairs, also threatened legal action against firms that purchased the "smuggled oil". His remarks represent a significant ratcheting up of rhet ... read more

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