Syria considers reopening pipeline from Iraq

Dec 26, 1997 01:00 AM

Syria is considering re-opening an oil pipeline from Iraq, closed in 1982 at the height of hostility between the two ideological Arab rivals, according to Syrian Oil Minister Mohamed Maher Jamal.
Studies are being carried out before a decision could be made on re-opening what was once one of Iraq's main oil export outlets.
Arab oil sources say Jamal and his Iraqi counterpart Amir Muhamad Rasheed discussed the subject on the sidelines of recent meeting in Cairo of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Jamal was quoted as saying his talks with Rasheed dealt with "aspects of cooperation in oil and gas between Iraq and Syria.'' Asked about the Iraq-Syria pipeline, Jamal said: "We use the biggest part of it in our oil production and in exporting light crude from Dayr Azzawr (oilfields). It is possible in future to study other considerations to rehabilitate it because this line needs a study before taking any decision.''
"Studies are under way on the condition of the line which sometimes suffers from corrosion due to weather conditions and ageing,'' he added.
Syrian officials have said Baghdad, pushing for an increase in the amount of oil it can sell under a U.N. oil-for-food plan, has officially requested the re-opening of the pipeline.
Relations between Iraq and Syria, ruled by rival Pan-Arab Baath parties, have thawed since May when they re-opened their borders and signed a series of economic and trade agreements.
Both countries view with suspicion Turkey's growing military cooperation with Israel and Ankara's incursions into northern Iraq to fight rebel Turkish Kurds based there.
Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz in November held talks with Syrian leaders in Damascus. He was the most senior Iraqi official to go there since 1980, when Baghdad cut relations with Syria for siding with non-Arab Iran in the 1980-1988 Gulf War.
The pipeline used to carry some 800,000 bpd of Iraqi crude from oilfields in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, to Syria's Mediterranean terminal of Banias. The line now carries some 400,000 bpd of Syrian oil.

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