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Pipeline repairs for Iraq

BAGHDAD, April 23 (UPI) -- Syria and Iraq moved a step closer to normalizing relations during meetings in Baghdad by moving on plans to repair an oil pipeline between the two countries.

U.S. forces bombed the pipeline to Syria shortly after the 2003 invasion. Plans to repair the route have moved along in various stages since then.

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Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-Otari arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday, leading a ministerial delegation of economic, energy and security officials.

In the wake of the visit, Iraqi oil officials opened invitations for bids to examine the pipeline and necessary repairs, The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates reports.

The Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline extends 500 miles from oil fields in northern Iraq to the Syrian port of Banias. At its peak, the line carried around 300,000 barrels per day.

Repairs to the line would give Iraq a vital avenue for oil exports to Europe while providing much-needed economic incentives to Syria.

Iran and Syria had signed a memorandum of understanding earlier in the month for the construction of the 2,100-mile Persian Pipeline that would bring gas to European markets along a route through Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

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