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French Version

Iraq aims to restart northern oil pipeline within days

Workers start filling storage tanks to prepare for pumping

Iraq expects to restart its northern oil export pipeline in five or six days, ending a stoppage of more than seven weeks because of sabotage attacks, an Iraqi oil official said on Monday.

"We think in five to six days the northern pipeline will be exporting again," the Iraqi oil official said.

Exports have been idle since Dec. 18, when saboteurs blew up a section of the pipeline, which runs from the Kirkuk oilfields to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Oil storage tanks inside Iraq were currently being filled to prepare for pumping, the official said. "The line is now operational," he said.

Insurgent attacks against Iraqi pipelines, refineries and fuel trucks escalated in the run up to the Jan. 30 elections, especially in Sunni Muslim regions of the north.

Dhiaa al-Bakkaa, head of the State Oil Marketing Organization has said that Iraq could export 250,000 barrels per day through its northern line if the sabotage stopped.

That would still be well below the capacity of the pipeline, which sustained damage from U.S. bombing during the war and has lacked maintenance over the past decade.

Exports through Iraq's southern Gulf terminals were running normally on Monday. Southern exports averaged around 1.4 million barrels per day last month.

Before the war Kirkuk pumped 850,000 barrels per day, about 40 percent of Iraq's total production.

The Kirkuk fields have an estimated 8.7 billion barrels of reserves remaining.

Mismanagement under Saddam Hussein meant that the fields were producing well under its 250,000 barrels per day optimal level.

The northern Kirkuk fields have also been a center of political tension. Turkey worries that Kurdish control over the fields could encourage the Iraqi Kurds to pursue independence from Baghdad and spur separatist sentiment among Southeastern Turkey's Kurdish population.

Amman,02 14 2005
The Daily Star
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