UPDATE 1-Explosion hits Syrian oil pipeline near Homs

Tue Nov 6, 2012 4:01am EST

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AMMAN Nov 6 (Reuters) - An explosion hit the main oil pipeline feeding a refinery on the western edge of the Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday during fighting between rebels and army forces in the area, opposition activists said.

Video footage, which could not be independently verified, showed thick smoke rising from the pipeline which links eastern oil fields with the Homs refinery, one of two in the country.

"The pipeline exploded overnight when fighting broke out after the Free Syrian Army launched concerted attacks against army roadblocks in the area," Nader al-Husseini, an opposition campaigner, said from Homs.

The pipeline, located in a farmland area called al-Basatin, has been hit several times before, with both sides accusing the other of sabotaging it. President Bashar al-Assad has moved armoured units to Homs to try and contain the armed revolt in the city, 140 kms (90 miles) north of Damascus.

With Western sanctions imposed last year on Syria's oil sector, production has fallen sharply. Economic decline and loss of state control over many parts of the country have curbed production of oil products and caused severe shortages.

Citing official data, the Syria Report news website said local consumption of gasoline declined 12 percent in the first eight months of 2012. State supply deliveries of fuel oil fell 24 percent and heating oil dropped 23 percent, it said.

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