BAGHDAD (R) — Iraq accused Kuwait on Thursday of stealing its oil, saying it would take unspecified measures against its smaller neighbour.But Kuwait, occupied by Iraq in 1990/1991, denied it was doing anything more than taking oil from its own territory.
Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammed Rasheed, who is also an Iraqi armed forces general, said Kuwaiti drilling in a desert border zone was depleting Iraqi oil, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) said.
The agency did not specify what Iraq would do.
Rasheed was quoted as saying Kuwait was “practising an act of sabotage against Iraqi oilfields by digging oil walls in a joint zone (straddling the border) in order to deplete Iraqi underground oil reserve.”
“Iraq will take suitable measures which will guarantee its and the Arab nations' rights to control its oil wealth and employ it for the interest of the whole Arab nation rather than achieve vicious American policy.”
Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah denied the Iraqi allegations.
“We haven't stolen anything. If you take from your own land, it can't be stealing,” Sheikh Sabah told Reuters at the United Nations in New York.
Kuwait's foreign minister said that Iraqi jets had recently been more threatening, coming increasingly close to both Kuwait's and Saudi Arabia's borders. He said that Kuwait was on alert, but did not expect any military action.
Similar Iraqi accusations against Kuwait over southern Iraqi oilfields and wrangling over OPEC oil production quotas were the main reasons for Iraq's invasion of the small neighbouring country on August 2, 1990.
Iraq's Oil Ministry Undersecretary Fa'iz Shaheen told the weekly Al Zawra newspaper that Kuwait was looting oil from Iraq's southern oilfields, saying Baghdad would take preventive measures.
“Iraq follows up clearly how the Kuwaiti regime is stealing oil from Rumaila and Zubair oilfields,” he was quoted as saying.
“The Oil Ministry is intending to implement a plan to prevent the Kuwaiti side from stealing Iraqi oil,” he said, adding Baghdad had the ability to stop Kuwait from doing so.
Rasheed, in separate remarks to reporters on Wednesday evening, said a weekend agreement by OPEC to increase the cartel's output had come about because Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had given in to pressure from the United States.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries met on Sunday in Vienna and agreed to lift output by 800,000 barrels per day (bpd). The United States has been calling for increased OPEC output to halt a runaway rise in oil prices.
Rasheed said there was no need for the increase and the hike in world oil prices was caused by speculators in the world oil market, high taxation imposed by Western governments on fuel prices and “plots” implemented by the American administration.
He criticised Washington for hinting that it might release emergency supply from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
US President Bill Clinton is considering emergency options to tackle high heating oil and fuel costs.
The Iraqi minister expected oil prices to “slip sharply” sometime during March next year as demand on oil would decrease at the end of next winter.
Iraq wants to stop trading with US dollar In another development, Iraq's top leaders on Thursday said they wanted to stop trading with the US dollar and replace it with the euro or any other currency.
The Iraqi News Agency, quoting a statement by the cabinet after a meeting chaired by President Saddam Hussein, said that the planned move was to confront the “daily American-Zionist aggression” against Iraq.
“The cabinet has decided to assign a committee of economists with the task of seriously studying the possibility of using the euro or any other currency instead of the dollar in the commercial transactions of our foreign contracts,” the statement said.
“...The US dollar is one of the levers of our enemy's influence and power on both regional and international levels,” it said.
“Our patriotic stand requires us to confront our enemy in the fields that we are capable of doing so as long as the aggression and the embargo are continuing,” it added.
The statement said that the cabinet would follow up “the issue in its forthcoming meetings until a final decision is taken.”
( Jordan Times )
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )