new oil pipeline from iraq to israel?

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    U.S. checking possibility of pumping oil from northern Iraq to Haifa, via Jordan
    By Amiram Cohen

    The United States has asked Israel to check the
    possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil
    refineries in Haifa. The request came in a
    telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official
    to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.


    The Prime Minister's Office,
    which views the pipeline to
    Haifa as a "bonus" the U.S.
    could give to Israel in return
    for its unequivocal support for
    the American-led campaign in
    Iraq, had asked the Americans
    for the official telegram.

    The new pipeline would take oil

    from the Kirkuk area, where some 40 percent of
    Iraqi oil is produced, and transport it via
    Mosul, and then across Jordan to Israel. The
    U.S. telegram included a request for a cost
    estimate for repairing the Mosul-Haifa pipeline
    that was in use prior to 1948. During the War
    of Independence, the Iraqis stopped the flow of
    oil to Haifa and the pipeline fell into
    disrepair over the years.

    The National Infrastructure Ministry has
    recently conducted research indicating that
    construction of a 42-inch diameter pipeline
    between Kirkuk and Haifa would cost about
    $400,000 per kilometer. The old Mosul-Haifa
    pipeline was only 8 inches in diameter.

    National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky
    said yesterday that the port of Haifa is an
    attractive destination for Iraqi oil and that
    he plans to discuss this matter with the U.S.
    secretary of energy during his planned visit to
    Washington next month. Paritzky added that the
    plan depends on Jordan's consent and that
    Jordan would receive a transit fee for allowing
    the oil to piped through its territory. The
    minister noted, however, that "due to pan-Arab
    concerns, it will be hard for the Jordanians to
    agree to the flow of Iraqi oil via Jordan and
    Israel."

    Sources in Jerusalem confirmed yesterday that
    the Americans are looking into the possibility
    of laying a new pipeline via Jordan and Israel.
    (There is also a pipeline running via Syria
    that has not been used in some three decades.)

    Iraqi oil is now being transported via Turkey to
    a small Mediterranean port near the Syrian
    border. The transit fee collected by Turkey is
    an important source of revenue for the country.
    This line has been damaged by sabotage twice in
    recent weeks and is presently out of service.

    In response to rumors about the possible
    Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa pipeline, Turkey has warned
    Israel that it would regard this development as
    a serious blow to Turkish-Israeli relations.

    Sources in Jerusalem suggest that the American
    hints about the alternative pipeline are part
    of an attempt to apply pressure on Turkey.

    Iraq is one of the world's largest oil
    producers, with the potential of reaching about
    2.5 million barrels a day. Oil exports were
    halted after the Gulf War in 1991 and then were
    allowed again on a limited basis (1.5 million
    barrels per day) to finance the import of food
    and medicines. Iraq is currently exporting
    several hundred thousand barrels of oil per
    day.

    During his visit to Washington in about two
    weeks, Paritzky also plans to discuss the
    possibility of U.S. and international
    assistance for joint Israeli-Palestinian
    projects in the areas of energy and
    infrastructure, natural gas, desalination and
    electricity.

 
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