Saboteurs Cut Key Iraqi
Oil Pipeline To Turkey

By Rory Mulholland

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq's top oil official admitted Saturday he could not guarantee oil exports after saboteurs blew up part of a key pipeline to Turkey, just two days after crude had started flowing again.
"There is a void in security," acting oil minister Thamer Ghadhban told reporters here, describing an act of "sabotage" on Friday in which an explosion cut the pipeline from Baiji in northern Iraq to the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan.
The disruption came just two days after crude oil exports resumed through the pipeline, which links Iraq's northern oil fields around Kirkuk to the Mediterranean terminal and which was shut down before the March 20 start of the US-led war to oust Saddam Hussein.
"Given it's a large pipeline it could take several days" before the oil will flow again, said Ghadhban, adding that this depended on whether the damage could be repaired by a patch or whether replacement parts were needed.
Iraq was now losing about 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) in exports because of the sabotage, said Ghadhban, adding that each barrel was worth 25 dollars.
This makes 6,250,000 dollars in export revenue losses a day. The pipeline has a capacity of around one million bpd.
Ghadhban said the explosion, at around 3:00 am Friday (2300 GMT Thursday) 20 kilometres (13 miles) north of the pumping station at Baiji, had started a fire which was still burning Saturday but had been brought under control.
Baiji is about 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Baghdad and is a vital hub in the network of oil pipelines that criss-cross Iraq.
The acting oil minister said he did not know who had carried out the sabotage but "what is definite is that they were endeavouring to stop oil flows to the refinery ... and to stop exports."
He said there was a void in security in post-Saddam Iraq.
"In the past regime, we had the oil police, the army and the cooperation of the tribes, as well as what we call internal security ... Now all this has disappeared. There is a void in security," he said.
Ghadhban added that security was not the responsibility of the oil ministry.
But he would not comment when asked if he was dissatisfied with the security provided by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the US-led administration now running Iraq.
The town of Baiji falls within the northern tip of the so-called Sunni Muslim triangle, a wedge of north-central Iraq known for its support for Saddam and a high number of attacks on US troops.
Iraq has the world's second largest oil reserves, but sabotage and looting have plagued the oil sector since Saddam was toppled in April, with pipelines suffering crippling damage and just 150 of 700 oil wells in working order, officials have said.
Officials say Iraq is exporting 700,000 bpd from Basra in the south.
But the country's production remains erratic because of breakdowns in the dilapidated infrastructure and attacks blamed on Saddam loyalists and anti-American Islamists.




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