Oil Exports to Stop Monday, Iraq Says

From Times Wire Services

Iraq on Saturday hit back at the United Nations, saying it will halt its oil exports under the "oil-for-food" program beginning Monday, a move that Persian Gulf oil officials said would not be allowed to upset world oil markets.

In Saudi Arabia, Oil Minister Ali Ibrahim Naimi said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was ready to cover any shortfall. Other OPEC nations are pumping at top capacity, but Naimi said Saudi Arabia is capable increasing its output.

The U.N. Security Council agreed Friday to extend its oil-for-food program, which governs Iraqi oil exports, for a month instead of approving a typical six-month renewal. The shorter renewal gives council members time to study a U.S.-British proposal--rejected by Baghdad--to adjust the U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The U.S.-British plan would lift restrictions on civilian goods imported by Iraq while tightening controls on military-related supplies and oil smuggling.

An Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman, quoted Saturday by the official Iraqi News Agency, said the decision to halt oil exports will take effect at 8 a.m. Monday. That's when the current phase of the U.N. oil-for-food program expires. The program has allowed Iraq to use oil revenues to buy humanitarian goods under U.N. supervision.

"Iraq will stop oil exports under the oil-for-food program in light of the noncompliance of the Security Council with the spirit and minutes of the [program's] memorandum," the spokesman said.

Turkey's state-run pipeline company said Iraq had stopped pumping crude oil before dawn Saturday.

However, it was not clear whether the pipeline ran dry as a result of the Iraqi decision.

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