Iraq fuel in hands of militias

Nov. 5, 2007 at 1:58 PM
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BAGHDAD, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Iraq’s fuel is coming under the control of politically connected militias as corruption seeps into the country’s oil sector.

“Militia groups have imposed their control over filling stations,” former Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloom told the Iraq newspaper Azzaman.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s top energy adviser, Thamir Ghadhban, said militias affiliated with religious groups are “imposing levies on fuel products sold to the public.”

People loyal to the militias are being put in charge of filing stations in Baghdad and other major cities, Ghadhban said. He added, however, that corruption and smuggling is being targeted and is decreasing.

Smuggling of gasoline and, to a lesser extent, crude, has been a major problem for Iraq. The currently subsidized price for fuel makes it profitable to steal it and sell it abroad at higher rates, or sell it on the Iraqi black market where most Iraqis purchase their fuel.

The full extent of the smuggling is not known, but it’s expected that millions of dollars are taken from the federal government coffers each day.

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