Iraq and neighboring Syria plan to build a new oil pipeline because the existing pipeline built in 1953 is no longer usable, Oil Minister Amer Rashid said in an interview published on Saturday.
"We have a project with our Syrian brothers to build a new pipeline because the old one, which has a capacity of 1.4 million barrels per day, is useless," the minister told Al-Jumhuriya newspaper.
He said the new pipeline would be built in two phases, starting with the section inside Syria.
"For the Iraqi section, we will provisionally use a part of the old oil pipeline before building a new one when our financial situation improves," said Rashid, whose country has been under UN sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
He said repairs to the old pipeline, which was abandoned for almost two decades, would "not be easy because of leaks, problems in the old pumps, and the unavailability of spare parts."
Syria closed the pipeline linking northern Iraq's Kirkuk fields to the Syrian port of Banias on the Mediterranean in 1982 after siding with Iran in its 1980-1988 war against Iraq.
In defiance of the sanctions regime, the pipeline was reopened in November, according to the Middle East Economic Survey. But Iraq denied the report, saying only tests had been carried out.
Iraq and Syria, ruled by rival branches of the Baath party, broke off diplomatic relations in 1980, but began to normalize links in 1997 through economic cooperation, opening their border to businessmen and government officials.
All Syrian citizens will be able to travel to Iraq starting in November, the Syrian interior ministry said on January 4.
Also on the oil export front, Rashid said that Baghdad would not be able to afford to construct the Iraqi section of a planned pipeline to Jordan until after the lifting of sanctions.
"The launch of this project in Jordanian territory will start but the Iraqi part will be built after the lifting of the embargo," he said, adding that tanker trucks will continue to be used.
Last week, Jordan set up a committee to prepare a feasibility study and a memorandum of understanding with the Iraqi government and the firm to be selected for the project.
Jordan depends on Iraq for its entire oil needs and will import five million tones of crude in 2001 under an agreement between the two countries, up from 4.8 million tones in 2000.
The oil is transported by tanker trucks across the desert from western Iraq to the Jordanian refinery at Zarka, northeast of Amman. The 750-kilometer (465-mile) pipeline is estimated to cost 350 million dollars.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse 2001.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )