The US will send experts to Iraq to help it protect the infrastructure of its oil production facilities, officials said on Wednesday.
Iraq's oil production facilities and pipelines have faced increasing violence in recent months at a time when Baghdad is working to increase its oil exports to fund the reconstruction of the country. At present oil exports form 95 per cent of the treasury's revenue.
Wednesday witnessed the latest attack on a pipeline transporting refined oil from Baiji to Baghdad. The attack caused the immediate halt of oil pumping in the pipeline.
After a meeting in Baghdad the US-Iraq Energy Joint Coordination Committee said: "Iraq and the US reaffirmed their commitment to joint cooperation in the areas of oil production and export, natural gas, electricity resiliency and reliability, clean energy and critical energy infrastructure protection."
To that end, the statement said: "Iraq and the United States are embarking on a significant new area of cooperation by having experts from the US Departments of Energy and State work with Iraq to develop approaches to protect Iraq's energy infrastructure from terrorist attacks or natural disasters."
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain Al-Shahristani, who chaired the meeting, said that this does not mean that US forces are to be deployed in Iraq. Cooperation would only be in the field of studies and equipment, he explained.
"Protecting these oil facilities is the responsibility of the Iraqi authorities," he said. "This will be carried out without the support of foreign forces."
Despite efforts exerted to increase oil exports to cover reconstruction costs, exports reduced in 2013. Numbers released by the Iraqi Oil Ministry showed the total annual exports last year was 872.3 million barrels compared with 886.9 million in 2012.
Consequently, oil revenues dropped from $94.02 billion in 2012 to $89.22 billion in 2013.