Blast shuts down pipeline in Turkey

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By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — An explosion in Turkey has forced authorities to shut down a pipeline carrying oil from Iraq to world markets, an official said Monday, in the second such incident in two weeks. Local media reports said Kurdish rebels had caused the blast.

The explosion occurred late Sunday near the southeastern town of Midyat and damaged the pipeline running from Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, to the Turkish Mediterranean port at Ceyhan, said an official at Turkey's pipeline company, BOTAS. A second line that runs parallel was not harmed, but has also been shut down temporarily as a precaution, the official said.

The two pipelines carry about 25 million tons of crude oil a year.

The official said authorities suspect the blast was the result of sabotage, but would not elaborate. He only spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to reporters.

Turkey's state-run TRT television claimed that the pipeline was blown up by Kurdish rebels who are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast. A news agency close to the rebels said on its website Monday that the Kurdish insurgents have claimed responsibility for the blast.

The rebels have bombed pipelines in Turkey in the past. They were also believed to be behind a similar explosion on the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline on July 20 which shut down oil flows from Iraq for days.

The BOTAS official said repairs are about to begin and oil flows through the damaged pipeline will resume within the week. The second, undamaged pipeline is expected to become operational later on Monday.

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