Saturday, May 28, 2005

Iran, Turkey to boost energy exports to Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iran and Turkey are to increase power exports to Iraq, a Baghdad official said on Saturday, as government figures showed that electricity output in the country plagued by cuts has worsened since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago.

"Iran has agreed to raise electricity exports to Iraq from 90 megawatts a day to 150, while Turkey will increase them from 150 to 230," said deputy electricity minister Raad al-Haris.

The combined increases represent consumption by more than 100,000 homes and businesses in Iraq.

But Haris, who was speaking in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, did not say when the increases would take effect.

The official, who had earlier met Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, also relayed orders from the influential Shiite cleric telling his followers to save power as regional temperatures begin to soar.

He added that work was being carried out on power plants and other installations in southern Baghdad, and the Shiite-dominated cities of Basra, Samawa, Amara and Nasiriyah to provide more electricity.

Iraqis have suffered from serious power shortages since UN-imposed sanctions followed then-president Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

According to a recent study by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), three quarters of Iraqi homes suffer power cuts, in particular around Baghdad where the figure climbs to 92 percent of the area's 1.1 million households.

Nationwide, electricity is available for roughly 8.8 hours per day according to estimates by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

In response, 29 percent of Iraqi households own or share a private power generator, with urban figures rising to 32 percent and rural ones at 19 percent, UNDP data showed.

Electricity ministry figures put current daily electricity production around 3,300 megawatts, compared with 5,000 before U.S.-led forces invaded the country in March 2003. On Saturday, Haris held unnamed neighboring countries partly responsible for the power shortages, saying: "Some neighboring countries refuse to supply us with electricity."

Insurgent attacks have also damaged the electricity grid across Iraq in addition to repeatedly hitting oil infrastructures that are the backbone of its power production


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