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BREAKING NEWS

Iraq has contingency plans in case Iran gas imports halted - minister

Iraq has contingency plans in case Iran gas imports halted - minister
FILE PHOTO: Iraqi oil minister Thamer Ghadhban speaks to the media during a handover ceremony at the ministry's headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily -
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KHALID AL-MOUSILY(Reuters)
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has contingency plans for any stoppage of Iranian gas imports for its power grid but hopes no such disruption will take place, Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said on Thursday.

He also said the next meeting of OPEC's ministerial monitoring committee in Saudi Arabia would assess member states' commitment to a current production reduction and that current oil prices and markets were stable.

Turkey has asked Iraq to purchase more of its crude, Ghadhban added, speaking to journalists in Baghdad a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi travelled to Turkey to meet President Tayyip Erdogan.

Ghadhban's comments come as the United States ramps up sanctions pressure on Iraq's neighbour and ally Iran, especially over oil exports.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas imports for its electricity supply, which is stretched more than usual during hot summer months.

Lack of electricity was one complaint by protesters in demonstrations that descended into violence in Iraq's oil hub of Basra last year.

The United States is urging Baghdad to sign energy deals with U.S. companies including a share for General Electric of a $14 billion power scheme that Washington says would help wean Iraq of Iranian energy supplies.

Ghadhban said international oil companies were operating as normal and assured them that oilfields in the south and north of the country were safe and secure amid increased regional tensions between the United States and Iran.

The United States evacuated non-essential staff from its diplomatic missions in Iraq over unspecified threats from Iran on Wednesday.

Sources close to foreign oil companies denied reports they were also evacuating employees on Wednesday.

Iraq's Kerbala refinery in the south of the country will start operating in 2022 with a production capacity of 150,000 barrels per day, Ghadhban said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by John Davison, Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)

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