Page last updated at 00:19 GMT, Saturday, 19 December 2009

Iraq asks Iran to withdraw troops from oil field

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Iraq has demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iranian troops who it says have crossed into Iraqi territory and taken control of an oil well.

An Iraqi government spokesman condemned the alleged incursion but said Baghdad was committed to resolving the issue by diplomatic means.

The Iraqis say 11 Iranian soldiers were involved and that they had raised the Iranian flag over the Fakkah oil field.

The National Iranian Oil Company denied that there had been an incursion.

But Iraq's Deputy Interior Minister, Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, said the Iranians were in control of the well.

"[At 1530] 11 Iranian soldiers infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well," he told Reuters news agency.

"They raised the Iranian flag and they are still there until this moment."

He said there had been no military response from Iraqi forces.

"We are awaiting orders from our leader," he added.

Similar incidents have happened before along the border, which has never been properly defined since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s - although relations between the two neighbours are now cordial.

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