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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 17:58 GMT
Iraq rations fuel amid shortages
Iraqi oil worker
Revenue from crude oil is needed to rebuild Iraq
Iraq has imposed petrol rationing in an effort to cope with supply problems, according to the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency.

AFP reported that Iraqi motorists have been limited to buying 50 litres of petrol at a time, quoting a spokesman for the country's oil ministry.

The spokesman added that penalties of up to 10 years in jail have been introduced to deter black marketeers.

The clampdown is aimed at easing two-mile queues at petrol stations.

Although Iraq has the world's second biggest oil reserves, fuel distribution has been severely disrupted because of damage caused during the US-led invasion earlier this year.

Neighbours help out

The Iraqi oil ministry and the US-backed coalition government on Wednesday set up a joint task force to resolve the problem.

The oil ministry said in a statement that the task force would "examine the supply challenges, black market activities and public perception issues that are causing fuel lines around the country".

Iraq is also negotiating to import extra fuel from its neighbours.

A delegation from the Iraqi oil ministry was in Kuwait City on Wednesday to put the finishing touches on a supply deal they agreed in principle last month.

Under the deal, Kuwait is expected provide Iraq with enough fuel to see it through the winter.

Kuwait has also agreed to allow Iraq to use its terminals to export oil.

Last weekend, Iraq received a shipment of over four million litres of fuel from Turkey, and is expected to receive further supplies from neighbouring Iran.

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