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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Sabotage Won't Block Oil Exports

August 27, 2004|From a Times staff writer

BAGHDAD — Iraqi oil officials said Thursday that insurgents blew up a cluster of pipelines in southern Iraq, but said they did not expect oil exports to be significantly reduced.

The pipelines carried crude oil from the Rumaila oil field, one of the two largest in Iraq, which is estimated to have 115 billion barrels of oil reserves. Television footage showed flames and smoke billowing into the air around Basra in southern Iraq.

Sameer Jasim Khudayer, the chief spokesman for the state-run Southern Oil Co., said repairing the breach might take up to three days.

"This operation is going to have its effect on the production process, but it is a minor effect," Khudayer said.

British military officials in the region said they were unsure the pipeline had even been attacked, noting that age and poor maintenance had caused occasional ruptures.

"The damage was actually quite minimal. It's no big deal," said Royal Air Force Flight Lt. Alison Ritchie, a spokeswoman for the British command in Basra. "Oil exports have not been affected."

As part of their campaign to destabilize the interim Iraqi government, insurgents have frequently attacked pipelines in the north and south.

The country currently produces on average about 2.1 million barrels a day.

During the standoff in the city of Najaf, militants supporting cleric Muqtada Sadr have threatened to attack the oil industry until the U.S. military withdraws from its positions around the Imam Ali Mosque.

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