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20 Dec 2009 10:11
Iranian troops who for three days controversially occupied a disputed border oil well left the facility during the night but remain on Iraq’s soil, Iraqi officials said on Sunday.
“The Iranian forces have pulled back 50-metres from the well andhave taken their flag but we now demand they return to where theyhave come from and that negotiations begin on the demarcation of the border,” said Iraqi government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh.
Earlier, Mayssam Lafta, chief of security and defence of Iraq’s Maysan province where the well is situated, said the Iranian troops had departed from the facility.
“The Iranian troops left overnight and the workers of the oil company returned to the well on Sunday,” he said.
On Friday, Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Co in the southeasterncity of Amara said that about a dozen Iranian troops had arrived atthe field, taken control of the Well 4 and raised the Iranian flag.It was the first serious incident between the two neighbourssince the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein,
whose forces fought a 1980-1988 war against Iran.
Baghdad had demanded that “Tehran pull back the armed men who occupied Well No 4” and condemned the incident as “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty”.
Iran rejected allegations it had occupied an Iraqi oil well, saying the facility lies within its borders.
According to US officials in the area, Well 4 lies in disputed territory about 500 metres (yards) from an Iranian border fort and about one kilometre from an Iraqi border fort.
Well 4 is in the Fauqa Field, part of a cluster of oilfields which Iraq unsuccessfully put up for auction to oil majors in June.
The field has estimated reserves of 1.55 million barrels.
Meanwhile Iraq will sign preliminary contracts, from Sunday, with oil companies that bid successfully last week for seven fields, oil ministry spokesperson Assem Jihad said.The contracts will then be submitted to the cabinet for final approval.
Iraq holds the world’s third-largest crude oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iran, with some 115 billion barrels. But wars and the embargo imposed in 1990 have hampered the exploration and development of its oil resources for decades.
Production currently stands at 2.4 million barrels a day, about two million of which are exported. Iraqi oil revenues represent 85 percent of government receipts. - AFP
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