* KRG says technical issues slowed exports recently
* Blames "malpractice" by government oil co. for halt
* Iraq, Kurds have long-running oil dispute
(Updates with KRG statement, details)
By Rania El Gamal and Ahmed Rasheed
AMMAN/BAGHDAD, Sept 11 Oil exports on the main
pipeline from Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region were halted
due to technical problems and "malpractice" and not because of
a policy decision, the region's government said on Sunday.
The Kurdistan Regional Government said Iraq's North Oil
Company had "serious technical difficulties" with its main
export pipeline, which carries about 100,000 barrels of crude
per day, and labelled "false" reports that exports had been
The KRG issued a critical statement late on Sunday
following a tumultuous day in which Iraq's oil minister,
Abdul-Kareem Luaibi, had announced at a meeting with oil
companies in Amman, Jordan, that Kurdish exports had been
halted but the region had given no reason for the shutdown.
He said the move would result in "big losses" for the
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's adviser on Kurdish affairs
said the stoppage was a reaction to central government approval
of a draft oil and gas law without consulting Kurdish leaders.
Iraq's government in Baghdad and the KRG in Arbil have a
long-running feud over oil and land. An export halt from the
Kurdish region in 2009 lasted more than a year.
But the KRG blamed technical problems for a disruption of
exports in recent days and "serious operating malpractice" at
Iraq's North Oil Company export system, which "resulted in the
automatic shutdown of the main oil export of the region, which
handles around 100,000 barrels of oil per day."
"All false assumptions and accusations of export suspension
should be totally discarded," the KRG said in a statement.
"The KRG remains committed to its interim agreement with
the federal government of Iraq for exports of oil from
Kurdistan's fields until a permanent solution is reached based
on the Constitution."
Late on Sunday Luaibi said he had talked to Kurdish Prime
Minister Barham Salih and Natural Resources Minister Ashti
Hawrami and was told exports would resume soon.
Earlier, Luaibi had said the export halt would result in
"big losses for the Iraqi economy, which will be reflected on
its revenues, on the people in the region specifically and the
Iraqi people in general."
Adel Barwari, Maliki's adviser on Kurdish affairs, said the
Kurdish government had demanded the withdrawal of the draft oil
and gas law approved recently by the Iraqi Cabinet and the
export halt was meant to put pressure on Baghdad.
"Kurdish authorities are upset by the Cabinet decision to
pass such a vital law without discussing it with its major
partner in government," Barwari told Reuters. "Kurds have the
feeling they were intentionally ignored."
Luaibi said the Kurdish government's commitment to deliver
oil for export had nothing to do with the new hydrocarbons law
and should not be linked.
The Kurdish region gets 17 percent of the national budget.
"The first loser is going to be the Kurdish people as they
will lose 17 percent of the value of their stopped production,"
Luaibi told reporters in Amman.
Kurdish exports had dropped sharply in the last two weeks,
to about 50,000 bpd from 160,000 bpd. [ID:nL5E7KA0G8]
In its statement, the KRG said pressure in the NOC's export
system was doubled recently. "This was done without any prior
notice or warning and has caused a dangerous level of back
pressure on the KRG export system," the KRG said.
Iraqi Kurdistan stopped exports in 2009 due to
disagreements with Baghdad over contracts the KRG signed with
foreign companies to develop its oilfields. The central
government deems the contracts illegal.
The resumption of exports in February provided a big boost
to Iraq's total exports.
The OPEC producer exported 2.189 million bpd in August,
including 461,000 bpd from northern fields. [ID:nL5E7K122F]
Iraq's current oil production is 2.75 million bpd, the
highest level in 20 years.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani has called his officials
to a meeting in Arbil on Tuesday to discuss the region's
disputes with central government, Barwari said.
(Additional reporting by Shamal Aqrawi in Arbil; Writing by
Jim Loney; Editing by Dan Lalor and Maureen Bavdek)