- BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein Monday announced an immediate suspension of Iraq's
oil exports for a month in protest at U.S. support for Israel's incursion
into Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
- Saddam said the decision, halting nearly two million
barrels a day or some four percent of international oil supplies, had been
taken by the Revolutionary Command Council at a meeting in Baghdad Monday
- In a speech broadcast over Iraqi media, the Iraqi leader
said: "The Iraqi leadership declared the complete stoppage of oil
exports starting from this afternoon April 8 for a period of 30 days when
we will further decide policy, or until the Zionist entity's armed forces
have unconditionally withdrawn from the Palestinian
- The decision came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
vowed to press ahead with a 10-day-old military offensive, in direct
of demands from Washington for a withdrawal.
- Saddam said: "The decision is basically taken
the Zionist entity, and the American aggressive policy and not against
anyone else. It is not meant to harm anyone but those who have decided
to harm the Arab nation, including the Palestinian people."
- Baghdad is under pressure from the United States and
Britain to permit the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq to investigate
its capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction.
- The Bush administration said Sunday it was not yet
a military campaign against Iraq but that the use of force remained an
- President Bush, after a meeting with British Prime
Tony Blair in Texas, said "all options were on the table" to
neutralize the threat posed by Iraq.
- IRAN, LIBYA
- There was no immediate response to the Iraqi decision
from two other Muslim oil producing nations, Iran and Libya, who have said
they too would embargo oil supplies but only if the ban found support from
all Arab producers.
- Such a move would appear to have been ruled out because
big producers Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have already rejected a repeat of
the 1973 Arab oil embargo that quadrupled oil prices, triggering a severe
economic recession in the West.
- Iraqi officials said their suspension would be lifted
once the Iraqi leadership was satisfied that Israel had withdrawn from
the West Bank.
- Iraq exports oil under a humanitarian exchange with the
United Nations, permitted as an exception to 1990 Gulf War sanctions.
e its hard-line on Iraq, the U.S. is easily the
world's biggest consumer of Iraqi crude, taking more than half of Baghdad's
oil and depending on Iraqi supplies for about nine percent of its huge
- Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammed Rasheed confirmed the
suspension of exports had been implemented at 1000 GMT from both its export
points on the Gulf and through Turkey. Turkish pipeline company Botas said
it had yet to be notified.
- About a third of Iraq's crude exports are piped north
through Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan with the rest shipped
from Iraq's Gulf port of Mina al-Bakr.
- The stoppage helped propel oil prices higher, adding
$1.04 to benchmark Brent to $27.03 a barrel, near a six-month high.
- OPEC Secretary General Ali Rodriguez said he will consult
with cartel ministers to see whether they saw the need to release extra
supplies to fill the gap left by Iraq.
- But one senior OPEC delegate said the suspension was
"not such a big deal" and that there was no prospect of the
meeting that would be needed for ministers to decide to lift output.