Iraqi Oil Pipeline Ablaze
After 3rd Blast in 4 Days


BARWANAH, Iraq (Reuters) - An oil pipeline feeding a key Iraqi refinery was still ablaze on Wednesday after an explosion on Tuesday night, the third pipeline blast in four days, a Reuters eyewitness said.

The explosion and fire at the pipeline northwest of Baghdad came as the top U.S. administrator accused saboteurs of cutting off power to Baghdad amid worsening attacks on occupying U.S. and British troops. "The fire is still burning at the oil pipeline," Reuters cameraman Khudier Majeed said at the scene in Barwanah, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Civil defense officials were trying to extinguish the fire, he added.

A top oil official said earlier that the pipeline, which supplies crude oil from northern Iraq to the Doura refinery near Baghdad, had been only broken, causing a spill over farm land.

Iraqi and U.S. authorities have blamed previous pipeline blasts on sabotage, which they suspect is aimed at hampering U.S. efforts to revive the energy sector, key to financing the rebuilding of the country.

The top U.S. administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer said saboteurs linked to former president Saddam Hussein had cut off power to Baghdad on Wednesday.

"Almost certainly the saboteurs are rogue Baathist elements. They are trying to hinder the coalition efforts to make life better for the average Iraqi person," he told a news conference.

Iraq's de facto oil minister Thamir Ghadhban said on Tuesday the pipeline sabotage would hit oil supplies to refineries and electricity generators, but should not affect crude production, which stands at a quarter of pre-war levels.

The war-torn country resumed its first oil exports since the war on Sunday with a shipment from the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, using barrels already in storage there.

Iraq's main export pipeline, which links Ceyhan to the northern Kirkuk fields, is set to resume pumping in mid-July, Ghadhban said.

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