Fighting may soon affect Iraq south oilfield work

BAGHDAD Wed Mar 26, 2008 12:35pm GMT

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Oil production and exports from Iraq's southern oilfields could be disrupted in three days if workers cannot reach their offices due to fighting in Basra, a Southern Oil Company official told Reuters on Wednesday.

"If the military operations continue for three more days, the oil workers will not be able to continue their work and this is going to definitely affect oil production and exports," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The streets of Basra, 550 km (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, have largely been empty since Tuesday when Iraqi security forces launched a major military operation to clear out gunmen from the oil-rich city.

Oil workers in the Basra province work 24-hour shifts and have not been replaced since Tuesday, the oil company official said.

"The workers are now going through a very hard time with shortages of food, and are tired from the heat because they are not being replaced," he said.

Oilfields in the Basra province pump around 2 million barrels per day and export some 1.5 million bpd, the company official said.

Iraq receives the bulk of its revenues from its southern oilfields.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Randy Fabi)

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