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Turkey To Operate Iraqi Pipeline

October 11, 2000

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey is preparing to resume full pumping from an Iraqi oil pipeline _ a move seen as retaliation against a proposed U.S. resolution recognizing the Turkish killings of Armenians as genocide.

Under U.N. sanctions stemming from Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq’s ability to trade is severely limited. The pipeline, which runs from the Iraqi oil fields in Kirkuk to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Yumurtalik, has been pumping limited oil to let Iraq make enough money to buy much-needed food and medicine.

But now Turkey wants to increase the pumping. A team of experts is in Iraq to inspect the pipeline, Gokhan Yardim, head of Turkey’s state-owned pipeline company Botas, told private NTV television on Wednesday.

The twin pipeline is now working at available capacity of nearly 1 million barrels a day _ some 600,000 barrels short of its maximum capacity.

But Iraq is currently producing at almost maximum capacity of 3 million barrels a day. It cannot add more barrels due to shortages of spare parts and equipment which are expected to arrive in 2001.

Whether pumping will increase soon or not, the move is likely to anger the United States, which has been pressing for stricter enforcement of the U.N. embargo against Iraq.

It comes as the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution that would place the government on record as saying that the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923, when the Turkish republic was established. The Clinton administration opposes the resolution.

Turkey admits that Armenians were killed, but says the killings were not part of a planned genocide. Turkey has warned that U.S. recognition of the killings as genocide would harm relations between the close NATO allies.

Nonetheless, Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz denied that the pipeline move was linked to the pending Armenian resolution. ``This move is not in retaliation against the United States,″ Dirioz said.

He also said Turkey’s plans would not defy U.N. sanctions on Iraq.

``The U.N. Security Council ... lifted restrictions on the amount of Iraqi oil exports in December 1999,″ Dirioz said.

Turkey has long complained that it has lost at least $30 billion in trade with Iraq since sanctions were imposed a decade ago. Reports have suggested that Turkey would open a second border gate with Iraq to resume trade relations. And a second Turkish plane carrying medical aid to Iraq landed in Baghdad on Wednesday.

Ankara is also in the process of appointing an ambassador to Baghdad.

Update hourly