Reuters: Iraq’s oil minister on Tuesday criticised the authorities of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region for allowing fuel to be exported to neighbouring Iran without approval from the central government.
BAGHDAD, July 13 (Reuters) – Iraq’s oil minister on Tuesday criticised the authorities of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region for allowing fuel to be exported to neighbouring Iran without approval from the central government.
Kurdish authorities have pledged to curb fuel oil smuggling from their territory across Iraq’s borders in response to reports that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crude and refined products were being trucked into Iran every year, thwarting U.S. efforts to impose sanctions on Tehran.
Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said the smugglers were profiting from the export of refined products while the federal government was having to spend public money importing refined fuels because of a shortfall.
“This is unacceptable,” Hussain al-Shahristani told reporters in Baghdad.
Brutally oppressed by toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Kurdish region has enjoyed virtual autonomy since the first Gulf War.
But Iraq’s majority Arabs and minority Kurds have been locked since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion in disputes over oil, land and power that U.S. military officials fear could one day spark a major conflict.
The oil smuggling into Iran has opened another front in the often acrimonious relations.
Shahristani said the Kurdish fuel sales were detrimental to Iraq’s efforts to emerge from its commitments under U.N. resolutions dating back to the first Gulf War.
In particular, they contravened its obligations to deposit oil revenues in the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), a U.N.-audited fund.
“Cabinet has decided to summon officials of the (Kurdish) region to discuss this matter and will not allow them to continue in contravention of Iraq’s national interests,” said Shahristani.