Page last updated at 01:22 GMT, Sunday, 20 December 2009

US alarm after Iran troops seize Iraq Fakkah oil field

Adm Mike Mullen in Baghdad on 19 December 2009
US forces are due to gradually pull out of Iraq by the end of 2011

America's top military officer has voiced concern about an incursion by Iran into Iraq that ended with Iranian soldiers seizing an Iraqi oil well.

Admiral Mike Mullen said he had spoken to Iraq's defence minister, but it was for leaders in Tehran and Baghdad to resolve the dispute.

Officials from both countries have said they want a diplomatic solution.

The Iranian troops are believed to have now left the Fakkah oil field, which is close to the Iranian border.

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.

'No military escalation'

The Iraqis said about a dozen Iranian soldiers had been involved in the incursion and that they had raised the Iranian flag over the oil field.

I worry a great deal about Iran's view of destabilising this region as well and specifically… focusing on an oil field
Adm Mike Mullen

According to General Ray Odierno, commander of US forces in Iraq, the Iranian forces had left the oil well as of Saturday morning, reports AP news agency.

"All of us are concerned about the influence of Iran," Adm Mullen told a news conference in Baghdad.

"I worry a great deal about Iran's view of destabilising this region as well and specifically… focusing on an oil field."

He continued: "But my understanding is this is sovereign Iraqi territory and is something for leaders in Iraq to resolve."

Earlier, Iran's armed forces apparently confirmed the incursion, in a statement quoted by Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam satellite television.

"Our forces are on our own soil and, based on the known international borders, this well belongs to Iran," they said.

Oil prices rose on Friday amid reports about the commandeered well in Maysan province.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters news agency: "We call for calm and for a peaceful solution to this matter, far from any military escalation."

US forces are due to stay in Iraq until elections in March 2010, and then gradually pull out, with complete withdrawal scheduled by the end of 2011.

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