BAGHDAD — Iraqi Kurds seized control of two oil fields on Friday, vowing to use the oil to meet Kurdish consumption needs and raising tensions between the country's political and ethnic factions as they struggle to form a new government.
The Kurdistan Regional Government, which governs a largely autonomous region in northern Iraq, said Kurdish forces moved into two northern oil fields on Friday morning to pre-empt what it alleged were orders by the government in Baghdad to “sabotage” a pipeline that would be used to export oil via Kurdish territory.
Iraq's Oil Ministry accused the Kurds of seizing the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk area oil fields illegally, in violation of Iraq's constitution.
“They are ignoring the government of Baghdad, and they are threatening the unity of Iraq,” said Assem Jihad, a ministry spokesman.
Kurdish authorities constructed the pipeline in recent years, without Baghdad's assent, but had not put it to use.
Since Sunni terrorists swept into northern Iraq last month, rendering a critical stretch of oil infrastructure inoperable, the pipeline project has become imperative, the Kurdistan Regional Government said.
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