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Basra fighting hits oil industry

Atul Aneja

Bomb explosion in huge crude pipeline


The main pumping station has been shut down

80 per cent of exports routed through the south


DUBAI: The southern Iraqi city of Basra has continued to witness heavy violence which has now hit its oil industry.

As the fighting entered its third day, a bomb hit one of the two main crude oil pipelines heading towards the Basra oil terminal. Oil exports are expected to be affected in a big way as Zubair 1— the main pumping station — has also been shut down. Nearly one-third of the oil produced in the area is transported through the affected pipeline.

“Fire-fighters are struggling to control the fire, which is huge. A lot of crude has spilt on to the ground... We will not be able to repair it unless security is provided for the crews,” Reuters news agency quoted an official from Iraq’s Southern Oil Company as saying. Officials estimate that it would take at least three days to repair the pipeline, provided calm is restored.

With Basra as the headquarters, nearly 80 per cent of Iraqi oil exports are routed through the south.

Iraq’s daily oil exports are currently estimated at 2.3 million barrels.

Heavy fighting on Thursday has been reported from Basra, and the towns of Hilla and Kut.

Government forces backed by the Americans are mainly targeting the fighters of the Mahdi army loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

American aircraft called in for support have caused heavy casualties in Hilla.

Call for Maliki to quit

In Baghdad, Mr. al-Sadr’s supporters gathered at Sadr city, a Mahdi army stronghold, and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for mounting the operation. Earlier, Mr. Maliki had given a 72-hour ultimatum to the Shia fighters to surrender. In response, Mr. al-Sadr said that the Prime Minister, who is camping in Basra, should leave the city and that the crisis should be handled by local notables and clergy though negotiations.

On Thursday, several rockets hit Baghdad’s high security Green Zone. Mortars and rockets had repeatedly targeted this area earlier on Sunday. Meanwhile, local media reports say that the humanitarian situation in some of the affected parts of Basra had begun to worsen.

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