The US has begun selling unmanned drones to Iraq for its southern oil platforms, as the country tightens security around the fourth largest oil reserves in the world.
"Iraq's navy has purchased U.S. drones to protect the country's oil platforms in the south, from where most of Iraq's oil is shipped," said an official from the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
"According to the energy police plans, we intend to use the drones by the end of this year," head of the energy protection force, Major General Hamid Ibrahim told Reuters. "We are in the process of training engineers."
Iraqi officials confirmed the drones sale without giving details as to the models or number of drones that haven been purchased.
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The OSCI did not give further details of the number or type of unmanned aircraft. But Iraqi security officials confirmed plans to use drones to protect oil infrastructure.
Iraqi forces took over responsibility for protecting the oil infrastructure in 2005, but until the withdrawal of the last American troops in December, the U.S. military had provided aerial surveillance and other logistical support.[...]
Iraq opened a new offshore export terminal in the south earlier this year which helped push exports to their highest level since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion at 2.317 million barrels per day in March. A second Single Point Mooring floating platform was scheduled to further increase exports in April.
Crude exports are forecast to reach 2.75 million bpd by the end of 2012, the world's biggest source of new oil supplies over the next few years.
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USA Today: Iraq buys U.S. drones to protect oil
The sales of drones and other U.S. military equipment are viewed by the United States as a way to maintain deep ties with Iraq after the departure of American troops in December. The sales "helps facilitate that strategic relationship," Caslen said.
Iraq already said it is buying more than $15 billion worth of U.S. military hardware, including 36 F-16 fighter planes, M-1 tanks and armored personnel carriers, insisting the weapons are for defensive purposes. [...]
Iraq has boosted oil production to 3 million barrels per day, up from about 2.5 million before the invasion. In six years, Iraq expects to be producing 10 million barrels a day, according to Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain al-Shahristani.
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