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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Israel eyes Iraqi oil
By Simon Wilson
in Jerusalem

An Israeli minister says he wants to reopen a pipeline which has been closed for more than fifty years to bring Iraqi oil through Jordan to Israel's Mediterranean coast.

A spokesman for the infrastructure minister, Joseph Paritzky, said the move would cut fuel costs in Israel and help regenerate the port city of Haifa.

There has been no official comment yet from Jordan, but any suggestion that Israel might benefit from the fall of Saddam Hussein is likely to enrage many people in Arab countries.

The pipeline was built after Britain took control of Iraq, Jordan and what was then British mandate Palestine after the First World War.

The section from Iraq to Jordan is still functioning, but the route from Jordan to the port of Haifa, which is now in Israel, was cut in 1948 when the British pulled out.


The Israeli infrastructure ministry says reopening the pipeline would give easy access to Iraqi oil, cut fuel costs in Israel and help regenerate Haifa which has suffered badly in Israel's economic recession.

At the moment this appears to be a personal initiative by the infrastructure minister who is from the secular Shinui Party, rather than any official policy of Ariel Sharon's coalition government.

In any case, Jordan may find it difficult to align itself publicly with a project which would cause outrage in much of the Arab world.

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