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Main Iraqi Oil Pipeline Sabotaged - 2003-08-16


Authorities in Iraq say the main oil pipeline going to Turkey has been sabotaged, stopping the export of oil to the north.

Iraq's U.S. appointed oil minister told reporters in Baghdad Saturday that the pipeline had been set ablaze by saboteurs, apparently opposed to American troops.

Iraqi police officials say they are attempting to track down the culprits.

The oil minister said that crude oil being exported through the pipeline has been stopped for the time being, only two days after the pipeline went on ling. He said the blaze had been isolated, and technicians were working to restore operations as soon as possible. Before it was disabled, the pipeline was exporting around 300,000 barrels per day.

The incident occurred near Baiji, a main pumping station, around 200 kilometers north of Baghdad. The area falls within the so-called Sunni triangle, where support for Saddam Hussein has been strong, and where guerilla attacks against U.S. forces have continued lately. Other attempts to sabotage the pipeline have caused minor problems in the last few weeks.

Efforts to export Iraqi crude have been hampered by outdated equipment and continual sabotage by guerrillas said to be loyal to the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein. U.S. forces and the Iraqi Governing Council have tried to speed up the repair of pipelines, in order to generate the income needed to help rebuild the country. Iraq has the world's second largest reserves of oil, but exports were almost at a standstill for most of the last decade following the first Gulf war.

Meanwhile, U.S. military spokesmen said Saturday that one American soldier was wounded when a convoy came under gunfire and bomb attack near the town of Baquba, north of Baghdad. The area has been the site of several fatal attacks against American forces in the last week.