Iraq demands Iran withdraw troops from oilfield

Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:52pm EST
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By Suadad al-Salhy and Mohammed Abbas

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq demanded on Friday that Iran immediately withdraw its soldiers from a disputed oilfield on the two countries' border, but Tehran denied any incursion.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said 11 Iranian soldiers had taken control of the Fakka oilfield in a remote desert area of southeastern Iraq, in a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty."

"Iraq demands the immediate withdrawal from well No. 4 and the Fakka oilfield, which belongs to Iraq. Iraq is looking for a peaceful and diplomatic settlement to this issue," he said.

Dabbagh did not give a deadline for withdrawal and did not say what Iraq would do if Iran failed to comply. Officials have summoned Tehran's envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said.

Iraqi officials said the Iranian soldiers crossed into Iraqi territory on Friday and raised the Iranian flag at Fakka, whose ownership is disputed by Iran.

Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji said the incursion was the latest of several this week at the field, some 300 km (185 miles) southeast of Baghdad in Maysan province.

"At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian (soldiers) infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there," he said.

Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency later quoted the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) as rejecting the report.   Continued...

<p>Workers walk near flames of burning excess gas at Fakka oilfield, near Amara, 300 km (185 miles) southeast of Baghdad, December 8, 2009. REUTERS/Atef Hassan</p>