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Iraqi workers halt station pumping oil to Baghdad

Workers at an oil pumping station in southern Iraq said on Wednesday they have stopped operations to protest the government's backing of the U.S. offensive against followers of rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The station in the Muslim Shi'ite town of Nassiriya cut supplies of refined products and liquefied natural gas to Baghdad, a statement by the workers said.

"We stopped pumping in protest of the inhumane conduct of the interim government and its cooperation with the occupation forces to ransack the holy city of Najaf and insult the Shi'ites, their symbols and holy places," the statement said.

Iraqi oil officials declined to comment. Clashes between U.S. forces and Sadr's Mehdi Army militia since last week have disrupted gasoline and other supplies to Baghdad as roads became more hazardous and petrol stations were looted.

The U.S. military said on Wednesday it was preparing a final assault on Sadr's militia in Najaf, after the cleric urged his men to keep fighting even if he was killed.

More Iraqis are becoming enraged by the attacks, which are condoned by the government. Thousands of demonstrators in Nassiriya called for the fall of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and set fire to the local office of his party.

11 Aug 2004 14:07:21 GMT

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