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Iranian Forces Fully Withdraw from Iraq Oilfield

Source: Reuters 1/27/2010, Location: Middle East

Small contingent of Iranian troops fully withdrew on Wednesday from near an inactive oil well inside Iraqi territory, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said. The foreign ministers of the two countries had agreed to maintain friendly relations and withdraw all military forces in the area to their original positions, the ministry said in a statement.

"The withdrawal of the Iranian force confirms the government took the sensible approach to dealing with the crisis with the aim of enhancing bilateral relations between the two neighbouring and friendly countries," it said.

The dispute was over an inactive oil well in a sensitive area along the nearly 1,500-km (900-mile) joint border. The seizure of the well, which Iraq claims as part of its Fakka oilfield in southeastern Maysan province, triggered protests from Baghdad and jitters on world oil markets in December. Tehran called the incident a "misunderstanding".

Iraqi officials said a dozen Iranian soldiers had moved 100 metres into Iraqi territory in mid-December and raised the Iranian flag over the well. Iraq later said the Iranians had moved away from the well but were still on Iraqi soil.

The well was drilled in 1979 and provided about 3,000 barrels a day at the time, but has been inactive since 1980 due to the war between the two countries in the 1980s.

Fakka is part of the Maysan oilfield complex, which has reserves of about 2.5 billion barrels. Iraq tried unsuccessfully to auction it off to foreign oil firms last year.

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