Iraq oil exports at pre-invasion levels

BAGHDAD Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:09pm GMT

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi oil shipments rose slightly in February to 1.93 million barrels of oil per day, the oil ministry said on Monday, as output stabilized to pre-invasion levels.

February exports, which were 10,000 bpd more than the previous month, translated into $5.04 billion for government coffers, the ministry said.

Oil prices have traded near or above $100 a barrel for more than a month.

Five years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq's oil sector is at last pumping at the level it managed under Saddam Hussein. But analysts and company officials say it could take years to make further progress.

Iraq's oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani told Reuters late last month that production was around 2.5 million bpd in February. Baghdad hopes to pump an average of 2.6 million to 2.7 million bpd over 2008.

The latest gains have resulted from improved security around Iraq's Kirkuk oilfield and its northern export pipeline in Turkey.

Persistent sabotage and technical problems had kept the route all but idle since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but since last summer Iraq has managed to sustain flows.

Exports from Iraq's northern oilfields in Kirkuk totaled around 393,000 bpd, while southern oilfields in Basra loaded 1.54 million bpd, the ministry said.

(Writing by Randy Fabi, Baghdad newsroom)

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