He Said, She Said ... Middle East Style: Iraq Claims Iran Stealing Oil

Iraq and Iran, two countries sharing intimately close borders, are squaring off over oil stolen from the Abu Gharb and al-Fakkah fields, which Iraq claims Iran has pumped illegally, according to the Associated Press.

In the same report, claims were made by Iraq that Iran had illegally seized and capped off wells in the al-Fakkah field. The two fields are the richest oil patches in Iraq.

An official from Iraq's South Oil Company, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Associated Press that Iran has been "pumping oil from their portion of the field at such high rates that nine of 22 wells in Iraqi territory have been left inoperable."

al-Sabah, a state-run daily, said Iraq's Foreign Affairs Ministry sent a note of protest to Tehran through its embassy in Baghdad.

"The Iraqi government demanded the Iranian side to stop activities relating to these fields until an agreement between the two countries is reached," the newspaper quoted Deputy Minister Deputy Mohammed al-Haj Hmoud as saying.

Iran is rejecting all accusations made by Iraq's Oil Ministry.

In a statement listed on its website late Feb. 4, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said, "The claim is not based on evidence."

Azzaman, an Iraqi newspaper, reported that the Iraq Oil Ministry is denying claims that Iran has stolen oil from Iraq.

Azzaman reporter Mohammed Hameed spoke to Iraq Oil Ministry Inspector General Abdulkarim al-Aibi who offered the following summation of the claim:

"I cannot understand the target of making such statements as well as their timing. It is strange to raise the issue of joint oil fields with Iran and ignore how Kuwait has been stealing millions of barrels for years and up to the present time."

Furthermore, the fields in question are not even mentioned by al-Aibi in his statement to Azzaman.

"The joint fields with Iran are those of Naft Khaneh and Missan," al-Aibi told Azzaman.

According to Al-Aibi, Iraq has created a special committee to "coordinate with neighboring states the exploitation of joint oil fields."