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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 17:31 GMT
Iraqi oil exceeds pre-war output
Iraqi oil facility
Iraq's oil infrastructure appears to be getting back on track
Iraqi oil production is above the levels seen before the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA said Iraqi crude production is now running at 2.3 million barrels per day, compared with 1.9 million barrels at the start of this year.

It puts the rise down to the improving security situation in Iraq, especially in the north of the country.

But the IEA warned that attacks on Iraqi oil facilities remain a threat.

In southern Iraq, more than 85% of the residents of Basra believe British troops have had a negative effect on the Iraqi province since 2003, according to a BBC poll.

The survey for BBC Newsnight of nearly 1,000 people also suggests that 56% believe their presence has increased the overall level of militia violence.

Sabotage attacks

In its latest monthly Oil Market Report, the IEA puts the Iraqi increase in production down to improved security on the main oil pipeline from Iraq's northern oilfields to the port of Ceyhan in Turkey.

The [BBC] survey's results suggest that only 2% of Basra residents believe that British troops have had a positive effect on the province since they helped the US overthrow Saddam Hussein in March 2003

In recent years this pipeline has been out of action for long periods due to sabotage attacks.

Since the summer there has been a marked downturn in all forms of violence in Iraq.

Analysts point to a number of reasons for this, ranging from the big increase or "surge" in American troop numbers in Baghdad, to Sunni militant groups turning against former al-Qaeda allies.

British forces are due to hand control of security in Basra province to Iraqi forces on Sunday.

The security improvements in Iraq are leading to all sorts of dividends in the country, some of which could be enormously lucrative, said BBC correspondent Crispin Thorold in Baghdad.

Threat remains

While the level of violence has reduced, the threat has certainly not gone away.

Earlier this week, three car bombs exploded in the southern Iraqi city of Amara, killing at least 39 people and injuring more than 100, according to local police.

Iraq has the third-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iran, but exports plummeted in the face of the insurgency that flared up following the US-led invasion.

Separately, the IEA said world oil demand would grow faster in 2008 than had previously been expected.

Saying markets were proving resilient to near record-high prices due to continuing strong global demand, the IEA now expects oil demand to increase by 2.1 million barrels per day, 200,000 bpd higher than the previous forecast.

The Paris-based IEA represents the world's largest oil consuming nations.

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