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Attacks hit Iraq oil export

Attacks on an oil pipeline have shut down oil exports from southern Iraq.

"There were two sabotage cases," Oil Minister Thamir Ghadban said on Tuesday, confirming attacks on a pipeline feeding storage tanks in the southern city of Basra on the Gulf.

Local shipping agents said deliveries to Basra were cut off. One said the targeted line had been "seriously damaged." A second trunk line, though intact, was also closed, apparently
for security checks.

Industry sources in Iraq said repairs could take seven to 10 days, costing Baghdad nearly $60 million a day at current market prices if no deliveries are resumed during that period.

"After the sabotage attack, oil workers tried to use an alternate pipeline, but it could not support the pressure because it was an old installation dating back to the 1970s," said Captain Muwayad Hashim.

"After that, exports stopped from Basra oil terminal and Khor al-Amaya."

Assassination

In a further development, the security chief for Iraq's northern oil fields, Ghazi Talabani, was also assassinated outside his home just hours later.

Kirkuk police chief General Turhan Yusuf confirmed the fatal shooting to Aljazeera within ten minutes of it happening early on Wednesday.

A member of Kurdish political chief Jalal Talabani's family, Ghazi was a Northern Oil Company official.

He died instantly and his bodyguards were also seriously injured.

Main gateway

The two terminals have been the main gateway for Iraq's oil exports since last year, when attacks against the northern city of Kirkuk's pipeline to Turkey's Ceyhan terminal were more common.

Tuesday's attack was the fourth on Iraq's oil pipelines in nine days. Until last month the vital southern oil artery was not attacked, allowing Iraq to sell its petroleum to the world. The country is currently averaging 1.65 million barrels per day in exports.

But with the date for Iraq's "sovereignty" approaching, fighters have stepped up attacks. In May, fighters tore open a section of the pipeline, briefly slashing by half the rate that tankers were loaded at Basra's two terminals.

Oil prices in New York and London pushed higher after the news, but later came off their highs.

Explosion in the north

Meanwhile, an explosion ripped through a crude oil pipeline linking northern Iraqi fields, a North Oil company official said.

"It was probably sabotage," said the official, who asked not to be named. Witnesses said fire was still raging in the pipeline running from Dibis to a pumping station around the city of Kirkuk, 50km to the west.

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