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Iranian forces cross into Iraq, take control of oil well


Saturday, December 19, 2009 01:20:59 PM, Agencies

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Nasiriyah: Iranian forces took control of a southern Iraqi oil well in a disputed section of the border on Friday, US and Iraqi officials told AFP.


“There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran,” a US military spokesman told AFP at Contingency Operating Base Adder, just outside the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.


“The oil field is in a disputed territory between the Iranian and Iraqi border forts,” he said.


An official of the Iraqi state-owned South Oil Company in the city of Amara west of the field said: “Iranian forces arrived at the field early in the morning (Friday). They took control of Well 4 and raised the Iranian flag even though the well lies in Iraqi territory.”


“An Oil Ministry delegation is to travel to the area on Saturday to assess the situation,” he said.


Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Ali Al-Khafaji, reversing earlier denials, said the incursion was the latest in a series this week at the Fakka oil field, 300 km southeast of Baghdad, in Maysan province.


“Eleven Iranian (soldiers) infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there,” he told Reuters.


Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh said, “Iraq demands immediate withdrawal from Well No. 4 and the Fakka oil field, which belongs to Iraq. Iraq is looking for a peaceful and diplomatic settlement to this issue.”


Dabbagh did not give a deadline for withdrawal and did not say what Iraq would do if Iran failed to comply. Officials have summoned Tehran’s envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said.


There was no official word from Tehran on the incident. Oil prices rose after Al Arabiya television first reported an incursion.


Al-Khafaji said Baghdad had taken no military action and stressed it would seek a measured, diplomatic response to the situation. “We are awaiting orders from our leader. This well is located on Iraqi land, 300 meters inside Iraq. It is disputed between Iran and Iraq. There was an agreement between the two countries’ oil ministers to fix this problem diplomatically,” he said.


The benchmark US light crude oil future moved to a high of $74.69 per barrel at 1414 GMT, up from $73.31 at 1108 GMT before the first reports.


The incident came a few days after the Iraqi Oil Ministry awarded leading global energy firms contracts to operate seven oil fields, in the second tender since the 2003 US invasion.


Ties between Iran and Iraq, which fought a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s, have improved since the new government took over in Baghdad. Yet tensions have flared in the past in the inhospitable desert region, just one of many flash points where continuing disagreement over shared borders between the two neighbors has fueled a low-level public feud.


Well 4 lies in the Fakka oil field, part of a cluster of fields Iraq unsuccessfully put up for auction to oil majors in June. The field has estimated reserves of 1.55 million barrels. Iran has prevented Iraqi oil officials from reaching the well in the past, an oil industry source said. The Iraqis have accused Iran of firing on their people, something Tehran has denied. 







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