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Syria-Iran pipeline to be reopened in November - MEES report

October 31, Nicosia (dpa) - Iraq and Syria were reported Tuesday to have agreed to reopen next month a strategic oil export pipeline in a step that will initially add 200,000 barrels per day to supplies on the international market-besides making another significant dent in U.N. sanctions against Iraq.

The Nicosia-based Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), reporting this in a news flash to its subscribers, said the 1.1-million b/d ``strategic pipeline'' will start operating at a reduced capacity, probably around mid-November, by pumping 200,000 b/d per day of Basra Light crude to Syria.

Syria will process the high-quality crude - which it will get at an unspecified ``discount off international prices'' - at its local refineries.

This will enable it to export an equivalent amount of its own crude to world markets. The MEES report said that the step was partly aimed at showing Arab displeasure at the perceived U.S. bias toward Israel in the Middle East dispute.

It was also intended to ``send a clear signal to the U.S. that it could not turn a blind eye to the violations of the U.S. sanctions regime by its friends in the region (i.e. Jordan and Turkey) while expecting others to adhere to it'', MEES said.

The report said Turkey has been importing crude oil and products to the tune of around 100,000-150,000 b/d from Iraq, with Jordan doing the same for the past decade for around 96,000 b/d.

Some 70,000 b/d also finds its way through Iran's territorial waters to the southern Gulf. All this is done outside the framework of the U.N.-sanctioned oil-for-food program, without obtaining permission from relevant U.N. committees, the report noted.

The strategic twin-pipe oil export tube was closed in 1982 after Syria supported Iran in the Iraq-Iran war that erupted in 1980.

MEES said that Iraqi technicians have finished repairing one of the 32-inch pipelines in the system in both countries by virtue of an agreement reached in 1998 to resume full-scale pumping operations.

Original plans called for pumping to be started at an earlier date,''but because of technical problems related to leaks at high pressures during testing, it was decided to carry out further tests and repairs before starting commercial operation,'' said the report.

It did not mention a target date or timetable for upgrading the pipeline to operate at full capacity.


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