IRAQ - June 15 - Saboteurs Hit Oil Lifeline.
Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban says saboteurs have blown up a
pipeline feeding storage tanks at the southern port of Basra, cutting
oil exports by over two-thirds. Shipping agents told news agencies that
exports, estimated at 1.6m to 1.7m b/d, were down to about 500,000 b/d.
The long pipeline from the northern Kirkuk field to Turkey, which has a
capacity of 800,000 b/d, has proved vulnerable to sabotage and has not
been pumping in recent weeks. Hence the southern fields have provided
the bulk of Iraq's exports. Kifah Numan, the engineering manager of
the South Oil Company, recently told the Financial Times that the
southern fields, which export crude oil through Basra and the smaller
terminal at Khor Al Amaya, were producing more than before the war. But
he acknowledged that sabotage remained a threat from "people who
don't distinguish between military targets and civilian facilities
working for the benefit of the Iraqi people". He said coalition
forces were "not involved directly" in security unless their
presence was "required". Iraq's political leaders have
recently stressed the importance of gaining control of the oil industry
as part of the transfer of sovereignty from the US occupation on June
30. A recent internal oil ministry report leaked to Reuters criticised
the repairs carried out to oil installations under contracts mostly
awarded to Halliburton, the US oil services company, and its
subsidiaries. Work had begun, the report said, on only 119 out of 226
projects due to have been completed by April and none had been finished.