Kirkuk Pipe rupture was sabotage

A pipeline rupture that halted Iraq's crude oil exports to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan was caused by sabotage and could take up to five days to fix, a source at Iraq's North Oil Company said today.

The rupture halted oil flow from Iraq's northern fields to Ceyhan on Sunday.

"After examining the oil pipeline we found out that it is a sabotage operation, not a technical failure," the source told Reuters. "The fixing will take four to five days. (But) probably we will fix it before that date."

The source said a two-metre section of the pipeline had been damaged near the town of Shirqat, south of the northern city of Mosul and about 300 kilometres north of Baghdad.

The 960 kilometre pipeline carries an average of 500,000 barrels of oil per day from Iraq to Ceyhan, where it is loaded onto tankers for export.

It was largely idle after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq because of technical problems and sabotage, but came on stream again in 2007.

Iraqi oil production stands at around 2.5 million bpd, but oil pipelines and other facilities have been frequently targeted by insurgents since 2003, choking off exports. Technical faults have also periodically cut flows.

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