Wednesday, June 9, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Iraqi officials said yesterday that the interim government has assumed full control of the country’s oil industry before the June 30 turnover of sovereignty from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

“Today, the most important natural resource has been returned to Iraqis to serve all Iraqis,” Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said. “I’m pleased to announce that full sovereignty and full control on oil industry has been handed over to the oil ministry today and to the new Iraqi government as of today.”

The announcement came as Mr. Allawi and Oil Minister Thamir Abbas Ghadban toured the al-Doura oil refinery in southern Baghdad.

“We are totally now in control, there are no more advisers,” Mr. Ghadban said. “We are running the show, the oil policies will be implemented 100 percent by Iraqis.”

Iraq has the world’s second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, with more than 110 billion barrels of crude oil and about 100,000 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.

Mr. Allawi said the turnover of the oil ministry before June 30 reflects “our full confidence in the oil minister. It’s evidence that oil ministry has worked perfectly.”

Referring to the former regime of Saddam Hussein, Mr. Allawi said that “in the past, Iraqi oil was used in building palaces, buying weapons to achieve one person’s goals.”

Iraqi crude oil sales since the war last year have hit more than $10.3 billion, the Coalition Provisional Authority said yesterday.

Of the total oil proceeds put in the Development Fund for Iraq since it was set up on May 28, 2003, $372 million was deposited during the week ending Thursday, compared with $493 million the previous week, according to the provisional authority’s Web site.

Iraq has set up a special force of about 14,000 troops to protect oil infrastructure, Mr. Allawi said yesterday.

Insurgents resisting the U.S.-led coalition have been bombing oil facilities across Iraq, dealing a severe blow to the country’s oil industry.

In the latest incident, saboteurs attacked the Kirkuk-Turkey pipeline on Sunday, the security chief for Iraq’s Northern Oil Company (NOC) said yesterday, shortly after another official of the firm had denied any such attack.

“Assailants detonated sound grenades on the pipeline Sunday at dawn, [75 miles] east of Kirkuk, causing damage, and a loss of a huge quantity of oil,” said company security chief Ghazi Talabani.

“The oil loss has been stopped and a group of technical experts are repairing the pipeline and the damage could be repaired by Tuesday night. Restarting production depends on the decision of the coalition and the oil ministry,” he said.

Earlier, NOC’s project manager Abdullah al-Rubai said there had been no new attack on the Kirkuk-Turkey pipeline since May 24 and that the main export artery was about to reopen.

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