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Iraq buys drones to protect oil

May 21, 2012 at 8:27 AM

BAGHDAD, May 21 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government is serious about the protection of its oil export routes through the Persian Gulf, a U.S. military official said.

Oil prices early this year hit historic highs after Iran threatened to choke off key oil shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for tightening economic sanctions.

The U.S. Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, which oversees U.S. military sales to Baghdad, confirmed the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles to Iraq to protect exports through the southern route.

"They understand the importance of the mission to protect its oil platforms," Army Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, who heads the office, told USA Today.

The office declined to reveal the number of drones outlined in the contract.

Baghdad has said it has proven oil reserves of 143 billion barrels plus potential reserves of around 214 billion barrels. A production level of around 10 million barrels of oil per day is expected within the next six years, up from the roughly 3 million bpd currently.

Most of the oil produced in the country heads through export facilities from its southern ports. Iraq aims to have a fourth international licensing round for oil and natural gas deposits this month.

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