UPDATE 3-Blasts temporarily halt Iraq oil flow to Turkey

Thu Apr 5, 2012 9:26am EDT

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* Fire extinguished, damage assessment started

* Exports unaffected due to reserves at Ceyhan

* Pipeline carries a quarter of Iraq's crude exports (Recasts with PKK claiming responsibility)

By Orhan Coskun

ANKARA, April 5 (Reuters) - Kurdish militants claimed responsibility for blasts on a Turkish oil pipeline on Thursday that temporarily cut off the flow of Iraqi oil from Kirkuk.

Turkish officials reported as many as three explosions which sparked a fire along pipelines that carry Iraqi crude to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. No injuries were reported.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting for regional autonomy for Kurds in Turkey's southeast, said it had carried out the attack, said Firat news agency, which has close links to the militants.

Sabotage is common on oil and gas pipelines into Turkey from Iran and Iraq, an area where PKK militants operate.

Fighting between the Turkish army and the PKK has escalated in recent months with Ankara resuming its bid to crush the 27-year-old insurgency.

Turkish energy officials said one pipeline was stopped after a blast sparked a large fire in the Idil area of Turkey's Sirnak province, close to the border with Iraq. Flow on a second pipe was stopped for several hours for security reasons.

A Turkish security official reported there were three almost simultaneous explosions.

"Firemen who were dispatched to the area managed to extinguish the fire," an energy official said. "Inspections have started in order to begin repairs."

A spokesman for Iraq's Oil Ministry said crude flow had resumed from Kirkuk to Ceyhan.

Oil exports were not affected as there were reserves already at the port, a source at the Iraqi North Oil Company said.

The pipeline, which carries a quarter of Iraq's crude exports, has been repeatedly attacked. It has a capacity of 1.6 million barrels per day and typically pumps 400,000.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict with the PKK, whose leaders are based in remote mountains of northern Iraq.

(Additional reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud in Baghdad, writing by Jonathon Burch; editing by James Jukwey and Jason Neely)

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