Iraqis say Oil well still being held; Iran denies claims
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) — Both Iraq and Iran stood their ground Saturday over the reported seizure of a southern Iraqi oil well by Iranian forces.
Two days after Iraq said an Iranian “armed group” crossed the border into Iraq and seized the well, Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi said the occupation of well No. 4 in Maysan province’s Fakka oil field continues.
But in a statement issued by its embassy in Iraq, Iran denied what it characterized as rumors of its forces crossing the border, and hinted that the claim was political because it comes ahead of next year’s Iraqi parliamentary elections.
Both sides said they are in negotiations and have a joint committee dedicated to handling border disputes diplomatically.
On Friday, the Iraqi government issued a strong statement deploring the alleged seizure, after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki headed an emergency meeting of Iraq’s National Security Council to discuss the situation.
Iraq and Iran share a long border, and high-ranking committees from both countries handle all border matters, an Iranian Embassy official said. Iraq and Iran fought a bloody eight-year war that ended in 1988 in a cease-fire with no clear victor and parts of the border under dispute.
Ties between Iran and Iraq — both predominantly Shiite Muslim nations — greatly improved after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003. At the same time, there has been widespread concern among Iraqi and U.S. officials that Iran has been providing Iraqi insurgents with material for roadside bombs during the Iraq war.
Drilled in 1979, the well is in Iraq‘s Maysan province, east of Amara, near the Iranian border. It is within the province’s Fakka oil field, the Iraqi government said.
The report of the oil well incident comes several days after the Oil Ministry’s two-day auction of oil fields. Aimed at increasing Iraqi oil production, deals were struck for seven of the 15 fields offered. There also had been oil bidding in June.