Angry Farmers Sabotage Chinese Oil Equipment in Southern Iraq

Angry Iraqi farmers have grounded Chinese oil activities in southern Iraq to a halt, sources and residents said.

They said the farmers destroyed cables and pipelines the Chinese have extended over their farms.

It is the second incident in less than a week involving the Ahdab oil field which the China National Petroleum Corporation is developing.

Last week unidentified gunmen destroyed a power station feeding the field but an Oil Ministry source said the damage did not lead to a halt in Chinese activities.

The damage the gunmen caused "did not halt the seismic and exploration work by the Chinese," said Assem Jihad, the ministry's spokesman.

But the farmers' revolt has practically prevented the Chinese from working as without these cables and pipelines the field's development would be impossible.

The farmers fear the government will confiscate their farms. "The Chinese have entered our land without permission and extended their cables. The work has destroyed our farms," one farmer, refusing to be named, said.

Jihad said the damage to the farms was minimal and "and cannot be used as an excuses for sabotage.

"There are hidden hands pushing the farmers to commit acts of sabotage. They want to stop the oil project on behalf of a foreign state," he said.

Jihad admitted that conditions for the Chinese were not so good.

"The company has moved its position to an uninhabited site. Such moves have detrimental impact on the sensitive equipment the company is dealing with," he said.

Jihad said all the area needed for the development of Ahdab belonged to the state and the farmers had illegally moved there.

But the farmers say they will prevent any such activities on their land until they are handsomely compensated.

Jihad said the government has intensified security in the area where the Chinese are working.

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