The United States warned Iraq Wednesday not to exploit concern over surging oil prices for political gain, but downplayed fears Saddam Hussein could further spike the market by cutting production.
As prices oil ballooned, triggering protests across Europe, Iraq last week accused Kuwait of stealing oil -- just as it did in 1990 before sending its troops across the emirate's borders.
"Our red lines are clear," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
"If Iraq reconstitutes its weapons of mass destruction programs, threatens its neighbors, or US forces, or moves against the Kurds, we have a credible force in the region and we're prepared to act in an appropriate time and place of our choosing."
"The fact is, Iraq shouldn't be trying to threaten its neighbors, whether it's Saddam Hussein or one of his ministers," said Boucher.
Boucher also said the United States would be ready in the "highly unlikely" event that Saddam Hussein cuts oil production in order to push up the already surging prices.
"We have looked at this situation with regard to Iraq's exports, because, as you all know, Iraq is pumping as much as it ever did in the past."
Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations had excess production capacity that could cover any shortfall in supplies, he said.
And Washington's own Strategic Petroleum Reserve had 570 million barrels, enough to cover any shortfall in Iraqi supplies for a year and a half, he added.
Kuwaiti leaders have said the tension in the region now is as high as it was before the invasion, which prompted the United States to assemble an international coalition to expel Saddam Hussein's forces -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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