News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqAnti-Iranian demonstrations spread across Iraq in oil well dispute

Anti-Iranian demonstrations spread across Iraq in oil well dispute

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ImageThe Times: A row over an oil well on the Iran-Iraq border has triggered anti-Iranian demonstrations across Iraq, angry statements by politicians accusing the Government of supporting Iran and the announcement of a new cross-tribal armed force to combat Iranian incursions. The Times

Alice Fordham in Baghdad

ImageA row over an oil well on the Iran-Iraq border has triggered anti-Iranian demonstrations across Iraq, angry statements by politicians accusing the Government of supporting Iran and the announcement of a new cross-tribal armed force to combat Iranian incursions.

The controversy began on Friday when armed Iranians moved on to the al-Fakka oilfield, in Missan province, south Iraq, and erected their flag on oil well No 4, which has been disputed by the two countries since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.

Last night the Iranian troops were “still inside Iraqi territory” said a Government spokesman. An anonymous source working at al-Fakka said that around 100 Iranian troops and two tanks were still present.

Tribal leader Abdelkareem Muhammadawi, from Missan, claimed that armed Iranians had also moved onto wells 11 and 13 on the oilfield. This was denied by the Government and by a source at the Iranian Embassy, who said that “no Iranian forces have entered Iraqi territories.”

Many Iraqis, among whom suspicion has been growing of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s strong relationship with Tehran, have reacted angrily at the lack of firm response from his Government.

A tribal council in the south of the country announced that they had formed a combat brigade to stand against the Iranian forces on the oil field.

The Construction and Liberation Council’s secretary-general, Sheikh Muhammad al-Zidawi, announced that the force was drawn from 126 tribes from all over the country. “The brigade is not a militia or terrorist group, but a national tribal force,” he was reported as saying by al-Sumaria news agency, adding: “It will liberate oil well No 4 and expel Iranian forces inside Iraqi borders.”

In Kerbala, traditionally a Shia Muslim city with strong Iranian connections, more than 100 lawyers marched on the Iranian consulate. They waved banners, and “chanted for the unity of Iraq, for life and to drive out the occupiers”, a journalist who attended the march said.

Students protested against Iran in the University of Amara, in the south of the country, and at Mosul University in the north. “People are very upset,” Aysa al-Safar, a student at Mosul University said.

“Iran has a policy of nibbling and, if this issue is not dealt with, Iran will make other intrusions into perhaps bigger areas elsewhere.”

Deldar al-Zebari, the governor of Mosul’s provincial council, said that it was preparing to make an official statement calling on Baghdad to take stronger action.

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