Tuesday 05 February 2008, The Press Association
The Iraqi Oil Ministry has accused Iran of stealing oil from a shared field under their common border.
Iraq also accuses Tehran of illegally seizing and capping off wells in a second field that Iraq claims lies entirely within its territory.
The two adjacent oil fields, Abu Gharb - which Iraq claims in its entirety - and al-Fakkah, the shared field, are among Iraq's richest. Both lie in Maysan province, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.
After the 2003 US-led invasion, Iran seized six wells in Abu Gharb, claiming they were on disputed territory and should be sealed until the border dispute is settled. Thirty other wells in the Abu Gharb field are working and under Iraqi control, according to an oil official at Iraq's South Oil Company in Basra.
The official also accused Iran of pumping oil from their portion of the field at such high rates that nine of the 22 wells in Iraqi territory have been left inoperable. He further said the Iranians are blocking Iraqi repair crews from reaching the nine wells.
On Monday, the state-run al-Sabah daily said Iraq's Foreign Affairs Ministry had sent a protest note to Tehran through it's embassy in Baghdad.
"The Iraqi government demanded the Iranian side stop activities relating to these fields until an agreement between the two countries is reached," the newspaper quoted Deputy Minister Deputy Mohammed al-Haj Hmoud as saying.
"The Ministry will continue following up with this matter and will send a delegation to Tehran soon to discuss the border issues," Hmoud was reported to have said.
Iran's foreign ministry has strongly refuted recent allegations. "The claim is not based on evidence," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said in a statement posted on the ministry website.
"Iran is ready to consider the case through negotiations between technical teams of the two countries," Hosseini added.