"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Rebels focus on oil


IRAQI insurgents hoping to disrupt next month's elections are sabotaging oil wells to try to create a fuel shortage and drive up fuel prices, Iraq's Oil Minister said yesterday.

"These acts are intended to cause a shortage and feed anti-government anger, increasing pressure on the Administration to abandon elections," Oil Minister Thamer Abbas Ghadbane said.

Iraqis are expected to go to the polls on January 30 in the first democratic elections in decades.

But there have been calls from political groups for the vote to be postponed in the face of continuing violence and attacks from insurgents.

Fuel shortages force Iraqis to queue at Baghdad service stations or buy their petrol on the black market, where costs have soared to more than 20 times the normal price.

"This sabotage increased last month and concentrated in the region of Baghdad, causing the stoppage several times of the Doura refinery," Mr Ghadbane said, referring to the only refinery supplying petroleum to the capital.

"The sabotage damaged other pipelines, even those that are buried."

Mr Ghadbane said the number of attacks on oil pipelines jumped to 27 last month from only one or two in the beginning of the year.

Six wells sabotaged last month in the Khabbaza oil field, 35km west of Kirkuk, were still on fire.

One well sabotaged in the same field at the end of last year burned for 45 days and cost $2 million to extinguish.

The fuel shortage has been made worse by attacks on truck drivers carrying imported oil and other petroleum products from neighbouring countries, causing at least one firm to cancel its contract to provide petrol.

Mr Ghadbane said black marketeers, desperate for petrol, had tapped illegally into an oil pipeline running more than 200km from the southern city of Basra to Nasiriyah.

He said 10 fuel distribution stations would be set up in central markets in Baghdad, and the Government would begin using aircraft to monitor oil pipelines in the provinces.

Iraqi security forces lost 11 men in attacks across the country over the weekend.

One US soldier was also killed in Al-Anbar province, where renewed fighting erupted in the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah after days of relative calm.

Eight coalition soldiers were wounded on Saturday when their convoy was attacked with mortar rounds, grenades and small-arms fire in the northern city of Mosul, the US army said.

Air support dropped a 500kg bomb on the attackers.

Three police officers, including a provincial police chief, died and six others were wounded in two separate ambushes north of Baghdad, police said.

Masked gunmen also killed seven civilians in a series of attacks on Friday and Saturday in Iraq's "triangle of death", south of Baghdad.

~ AFP,5478,11669189%255E663,00.html

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Milton Frihetsson, 09:40


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