UPDATE 1-Iraqi Kurdish oil exports fall below 30,000 bpd-sources

Isabel Coles
Reuters Middle East

* Oil payments dispute with Baghdad ongoing

* Kurdish exports reached 200,000 bpd at their highest

(Adds background)

ARBIL, Iraq, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Oil exports from Iraq's

autonomous Kurdistan region have fallen to an average of below

30,000 barrels per day (bpd), industry sources said on Monday, a

decline likely to worsen tensions between Baghdad and the

Kurdish region.

The fall comes at a time of increasing friction between the

Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad, which has

withheld payments to oil companies operating in the north as

part of a wider dispute over petroleum rights.

Kurdistan has previously halted shipments of its oil in

protest over what it said were overdue payments from Baghdad,

but the reason for the current decline was not immediately


At their highest, Iraqi Kurdish oil exports reached around

200,000 bpd.

"Exports are much lower than 30,000 now," said one industry

source on condition of anonymity.

Comment from the Kurdish ministry of natural resources was

not immediately available.

Last week, Kurdish crude flow was cut by around 75,000

barrels per day due to a technical problem at the Khurmala

oilfield, Iraqi oil sources said.

That followed an earlier reduction to 100,000 bpd.

In October, the Kurds agreed to export 250,000 bpd in 2013

if Baghdad paid operators in the region.

An initial sum of $650 million was transferred by Baghdad to

the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) in October, but a

subsequent payment has not yet been made.

Baghdad rejects the deals signed between Kurdistan and oil

companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and

Total as illegal and has blacklisted some that have

ventured into the northern region.

Kurdistan says its right to grant contracts to foreign

companies is enshrined in the Iraqi constitution, which was

drawn up following the 2003 invasion that ousted Sunni dictator

Saddam Hussein.

The oil payment dispute is part of a broader debate between

Baghdad and Kurdistan over control of oil and territories which

is straining Iraq's uneasy federal union one year after U.S.

troops left.

(Editing by Patrick Markey; editing by Jason Neely)

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