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Iraq Grapples with Fuel Crisis

Iraq Grapples with Fuel Crisis

Friday, 15 April, 2022 - 05:30
Iraqis crowd a Baghdad petrol station to fill up after some filling stations shut off their pumps to protest government policies on fuel. (AFP)

Motorists in Iraq formed long queues for fuel Thursday after some owners of filling stations shut off their pumps to protest government policies on fuel distribution and pricing.

Some government-run fuel stations have been ordered to operate around the clock to meet demand, the official news agency INA reported.

Dozens of vehicles were lined up at stations that remained open.

Some owners of petrol stations have denounced the method of fuel distribution imposed by the authorities, complaining they end up paying more for the quantity of fuel they receive from the government than what they say it is worth.

Iraq is the second largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and oil provides more than 90 percent of its income.

But the country, with a population of about 41 million, is also grappling with a major energy crisis and regular power cuts.

In recent days, private stations had already suspended their activities in the southern city of Najaf, according to INA.

The government has played down the problem, saying it is limited to "certain stations" in the capital Baghdad and the central and southern provinces, said Ihsan Mussa Ghanem, deputy head of the Iraqi agency in charge of distributing petroleum products.

In a statement, his agency said the owners of the closed stations were "manufacturing crises and obstructing the distribution of gasoline to citizens".

Owners do not have the right to stop supplies, it said, and "inspection committees will identify all stations that contravene instructions."

Those that have shut their pumps face having their licenses suspended and supplies of oil stopped, the statement said.

Moreover, officials at the Oil Ministry have accused owners of gas stations of smuggling oil to Kurdistan and outside the country. Fuel is sold at a higher price in Kurdistan.

General Manage of the Oil Products Distribution Company, Ihsan Moussa, blamed the owners for sparking the crisis because of their failure to apply the law.

The stations that shut are now accused of smuggling oil, he added, saying they have been caught in the act.

He noted that oil has been smuggled to Kurdistan, Syria and Lebanon.

This is not a real fuel crisis, but one that has been caused by illegal activity, he remarked.

Seven million liters of fuel are being smuggled every day, out of a total of 30 million that is produced daily, he revealed.

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