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Iraq's Fuel Crisis Appears to be Over - 2003-10-21


Following the war to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, a crisis developed at local gasoline stations. In Baghdad, thousands of Iraqis were forced to wait eight or nine hours to get fuel for their cars. A huge black market for fuel developed with people selling gasoline on nearly every street corner.

A trip to a local gasoline station in Baghdad is all one needs to understand that life is slowly improving in Iraq.

Hussein Ghadir Abid waited 10 minutes to fill up his black BMW. While standing at the pump he recalled what a trip to the gas station was like six months ago. He described it as a nightmare, saying he often had to wait three or four hours in the hot sun just to fill up his car.

For others the wait used to be much longer. But according to gas station manager Amir Muslim Hassan, today there is a difference when it comes to getting gasoline.

In fact, Mr. Hassan said, there is a dramatic difference. He said fuel products are now being provided, and the pumps have been repaired from damage caused by looters. He says it was a real crisis six months ago, with some people waiting eight or nine hours to get gasoline. Now he says it takes 10 minutes.

Six months ago, for security reasons, gas stations were required to close at two o'clock in the afternoon. Now, they are open almost all day.

But one of the few people who do not appreciate the fact that the situation is improving is 53-year-old Chaid Jasem Kadoum. He has been making a living selling black market fuel on the side of the road in Baghdad since May. He says business used to be very good. Nowadays, hardly anyone is stopping to buy his gasoline.

Mr. Kadoum says that if the situation keeps stabilizing he will not know where to go for a job. He says there are no jobs, and he has 13 children to feed. Today, he says he makes only enough to buy bread for his family.

Mr. Kadoum says he did not think selling black market gasoline would last forever, but he says he was just hoping things would not improve so soon.