Azeri residents clash with oil company

Dec. 16, 2011 at 6:44 AM

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The state oil company in Azerbaijan said demolition was halted in an oil contract area after residents scuffled with contractors.

Residents in the Azeri town of Sulutepe told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that security officials working for the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan were wearing military uniforms during the clashes. Police used batons to drive protesters back after they moved to block SOCAR from destroying homes in the Binaqadi Oil contract area.

SOCAR claims it owns the land and settlers there had occupied the land illegally. The company said it couldn't continue work because of the protests.

"Those areas belong to (SOCAR subsidiary) Binaqadi Oil," said SOCAR spokesman Nizameddin Quliyev. "Our security officers protect their facilities as well."

SOCAR in May said 67 percent of the area in question was occupied illegally.

RFE/RL didn't provide specifics, though the agency said a number of people were injured during the melee. Residents said they had permits to build in the municipality.

Some of the homes were demolished with settlers' possessions inside, the news agency reports.

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