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Iraqi Pipeline Resumes Operations

March 4, 1999

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ The Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline returned to normal operations Thursday, less than a week after U.S. warplanes attacked the Iraqi communications centers that controlled the flow of the pipeline’s oil.

The Iraqi Oil Ministry said its employees repaired the damage caused by the airstrikes on Sunday and Monday. Operations resumed early Thursday and oil was flowing at normal levels.

The announcement eased fears about the disruption of a U.N. humanitarian program that depends on undisturbed oil exports by Iraq. About half the oil Iraq exports flows through the pipeline, some 1 million barrels a day.

The official Iraqi News Agency quoted Oil Minister Mohammed Amer Rashid as saying that the pipeline shipped 1 million barrels of oil on Thursday.

Meanwhile, China on Thursday condemned the U.S. and British airstrikes on Iraq that have occurred almost daily since mid-December.

The bombings have been conducted by the allied warplanes patrolling the ``no-fly″ zones created after the 1991 Gulf War to protect minority Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiite opposition in southern Iraq from the Iraqi military.

China expresses ``deep concern″ over the airstrikes, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said in Beijing.

In London, the British Defense Secretary George Robertson said the airstrikes were intended to protect the lives of air crews patrolling the no-fly zones.

The latest attack came Thursday, when Britain bombed an Iraqi air defense site. Royal Air Force planes returned to base safely following the strike near Basra in southern Iraq, Britain’s Defense Ministry said.

No further details were available on the raid.

In striking the pipeline communications centers, the United States says its pilots are defending themselves. Iraq has denied that the installations had any military role.

Iraq has been barred from exporting oil freely since U.N. sanctions were imposed in 1990 to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait. Under a U.N. oil-for-food program, Iraq can sell $5.2 billion worth of oil over six months to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.

But Iraq has been unable to meet that target because of low world oil prices and the dilapidated state of Iraq’s oil industry.

Rashid said Iraq has exported 175 million barrels so far in the current six-month phase of the oil-for-food program, and hopes to export another 350 million barrels by the end of May.

Update hourly