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    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saboteurs attacked one of two oil pipelines feeding Iraq's southern export terminals on Saturday, halving the country's exports to 960,000 barrels per day, officials and a shipping agent said.

    The attack on the pipeline succeeded despite beefed-up security after similar attacks last month and vows by the new government to restore stability to the country.

    "It was sabotage," said one oil official, who declined to be named.

    Efforts were focusing on putting out the fire in the pipeline on the Faw Peninsula. Oil has to then be drained from the site before repairs could begin, he added.

    Engineering crews from the South Oil Company will be dispatched early on Sunday to assess the damage and estimate how long the repairs would take, the official said.

    Operations at the Khor al-Amaya terminal were forced to halt and the export flow rate at the bigger Basra terminal, formerly known as Mina al-Bakr, was down to 40,000 barrels per hour from up to 70,000 before the attack, according to an international shipping agent.

    One tanker had finished loading from an offshore platform at Khor al-Amaya just before the morning attack and two were loading from the nearby Basra terminal.

    Attacks on Iraq's pipelines halted exports several times this year and helped drive up oil prices, which are hovering around $36 a barrel for Brent crude and $2 higher for U.S. light crude.

    Last month saboteurs blew holes in the 42-inch and 48-inch pipelines feeding the two terminals. They also attacked the main export pipeline through Turkey, bringing exports to a halt.

    Iraq has managed to export only 13 million barrels per day (bpd) of northern crude through Turkey since the war last year.

    Industry insiders say some northern crude was being secretly pumped through another pipeline for export through the southern terminals before Saturday's sabotage.

    The sabotage attacks, which spread this year to include oil installations in the country's mostly Shi'ite south, has helped prevent Iraq from reaching the prewar export level of around 2.2 million bpd.

    Iraq was exporting close to 2 million bpd, all from its two terminals in the south, before the latest attack. The oil revenue is vital to meet demands for public spending and placate millions of people who were marginalized under 35 years of Baath party rule.

 
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