U.S. cuts Iraqi oil supply to Syria

Saturday, April 12, 2003

LONDON The United States has halted the flow of Iraqi oil to Syria.

Western intelligence sources said U.S.-led coalition forces shut off the oil pump outside the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday. The Kirkuk facility was pumping about 250,000 barrels of oil via a pipeline to the Syrian port of Banyas, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It's a major move by the United States and will have a significant affect on Syria," a senior intelligence source said. "The Syrians are very upset."

Intelligence sources said Iraqi oil pumped to Syria over the last two years had been a major source of revenue for the regime of President Bashar Assad. Iraq had sold the oil to Syria for about $11 a barrel and the Assad regime exported the fuel at market prices and kept the difference.

Last week, U.S. sources told the Kuwaiti Al Rai Al Aam daily that coalition forces stopped the flow of oil by bombing the pipeline. But Western intelligence sources dismissed the report and said the pipeline was continuing to operate.

The United States did not announce the shutting down of the pipeline. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he could not provide any details.

"Don't know what its current status is," Boucher said. "Yes. I just have to leave it at that."

Officials said U.S. and coalition forces captured Kirkuk on Friday. Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director for operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade encountered what he termed minimal resistance during its entry into Kirkuk. He described the situation in the city as fluid.

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