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Oil still flowing to Syria through Iraqi pipeline

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Despite the fall of the regime of President Saddam Hussein, Syria continues to receive hundreds of thousands of barrels of free oil from Iraq.

Western intelligence sources said the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline continues to operate amid the fall of Baghdad and coalition operations in the north. The sources said the pipeline from the Iraqi city of Kirkuk to the Syrian port of Banyas pumps about 250,000 barrels of oil a day.

"As of Monday, there's been no change in the pipeline and it is running as usual," a senior intelligence source said.

Last week, the Kuwaiti Al Rai Al Aam daily reported that U.S. forces bombed the pipeline and terminated Iraqi oil supplies to Syria. U.S. officials have refused to confirm the report, although they acknowledged coalition air strikes on Iraqi targets near the Syrian border.

On Thursday, U.S. officials reported that a force of American special operations forces and Kurdish fighters have reached the oil fields around the northern city of Kirkuk. They said the oil fields had not been sabotaged by the Saddam regime.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday that the northern oil fields, which have some 40 percent of Iraq's oil wealth, have probably been wired for destruction by the Saddam regime. Rumsfeld also warned Syria to halt the supply of Russian-origin weapons to Iraq's military.

But U.S. officials said President George Bush has reassured Arab and Middle East regimes that Washington does not plan to expand the current war in Iraq to include Syria or Iran. Iran and Syria are now regarded as the leading developers of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

"We believe that all of these nations Syria, Iran, others should realize that pursuing weapons of mass destruction, supporting terrorist activities, is not in their interest," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told The Los Angeles Times in an interview on Thursday. "That doesn't mean that war is coming to them. It just means that the world is changing."

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