Ejiofor Alike with agency reports
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) wednesday gave an assurance that Iraqi oil facilities were secured and that the country’s production was continuing, after Iran carried out overnight attacks that targeted the United States troops in Iraq.
OPEC Secretary General, Mr. Mohammed Barkindo, who gave the assurance on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, also confirmed that oil production in Iraq was unaffected by the attack.
He spoke just as President Muhammadu Buhari met behind closed doors with the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Iran had carried out a ballistic missile attack on airbases housing US forces in Iraq early on Tuesday, in retaliation for the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani.
More than a dozen missiles launched from Iran struck two air bases in Irbil and Al Asad, west of Baghdad.
It is unclear if there have been any casualties and the initial response from Washington has been muted as President Donald Trump merely tweeted that all was well and that casualties and damage were being assessed.
The attack came just hours after the burial of Soleimani, who controlled Iran’s proxy forces across the Middle East.
Though the rocket attack raised the spectre of a spiralling Middle East conflict and disruption to crude flows, oil prices gave up most of their early gains as oil production facilities remain unaffected by attacks.
While the price of the global benchmark, Brent crude dropped by 49 cents, or 0.72 per cent, at $67.78, after earlier rising to their highest since mid-September at $71.75 per barrel, the price of the West Texas Intermediate crude went down 76 cents, or 1.21 per cent, at $61.94 a barrel.
Tweets by Trump and Iran’s foreign minister also appeared to signal a period of calm – for now.
But Barkindo expressed relief that the US-Iran hostilities have not affected oil facilities in the Middle East.
“It’s a big relief that the facilities continue to be secured in Iraq, the production is continuing and effective,” he stated.
He said he was optimistic Iraq would reach 100 per cent compliance with OPEC cuts in time despite current tensions.
In a message to Trump, Barkindo said OPEC alone could not shoulder the responsibility of maintaining a stable oil market.
Iraq yesterday confirmed that Iran notified it of the overnight attack that targeted US troops in the country.
“We got an official verbal message from the Islamic Republic of Iran that the Iranian response to the assassination of martyr Qassem Soleimani has started or will start shortly after and that the strike will be limited to sites where the US Army is in Iraq without specifying the sites,” Reuters quoted a military spokesman for Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Abdel-Mahdi as saying.
Abdel-Mahdi, who is also Iraq’s general army commander, has been holding talks aimed at de-escalation and avoiding an “open war” that would “primarily” harm Iraq and the region, the spokesman said in a statement, carried by Iraq’s state news agency INA.
“We call on everyone to exercise self-restraint, give precedence to the language of logic, abide by international charters and respect the state of Iraq,” he added.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the attack was “a slap in the face” for the U.S. and called for an end to the US presence in the Middle East.
Echoing him, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s “final answer” to Soleimani’s assassination would be to “kick all US forces out of the region”.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said Iran warned him that an attack was imminent and only areas with US troops would be targeted.
Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday met behind closed doors with Kyari, but the agenda of the meeting was unknown as the NNPC boss refused to speak to State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting.