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Iraq Keeps South Oil Pipeline Shut

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Authorities kept a main oil pipeline in southern Iraq shut on Sunday rather than risk it being attacked, restricting the country's exports to half normal levels, a South Oil Official said.

Media reports that the pipeline had restarted and flows returned to normal were inaccurate, said the official for the state-owned company, who declined to be identified.

"The situation is unchanged. Only the secondary export pipeline is operating," the official said.

A sabotage attack on the main 48-inch pipeline on August 9 halved exports to one million barrels a day. Basra Light crude oil has since been flowing from southern fields to offshore Gulf terminals through a secondary pipeline.

The larger pipeline has capacity for 1.5 million barrels per day compared to one million for a smaller pipeline, which runs alongside it but is less visible.

Security in the region has deteriorated in the past two weeks as U.S.-led forces launched attacks aimed at crushing an uprising led by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr's Mehdi Army militia has threatened to sabotage oil facilities in response, especially in the south, which account for all of Iraq's exports.

Saboteurs detonated an explosive near an oil pumping station in south Iraq on Saturday but caused little damage, witnesses said.

Sabotage has kept another pipeline linking the northern fields to Turkey mostly shut since the U.S. invasion last year.

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