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Iran-Iraq dispute over oil well still unresolved

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Iraq-Iran oil well dispute
  • Iranian forces that seized Iraqi oil well withdraw from facility but remain in Iraq, says Iraqi official
  • Iran, however, dismissed Iraq's allegations of takeover, saying well is in Iranian territory
  • Negotiations to resolve diplomatic standoff are ongoing, says Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister
  • The two countries fought 8-year war that ended in 1988 with parts of border under dispute
  • Iraq
  • Iran

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian forces that seized an Iraqi oil well have withdrawn from the installation but remain on Iraqi territory, a top Iraqi official charged Sunday.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government deployed more troops to Maysan province where oil well number 4 is located, Iraqi security officials said. They said workers returned to the well Sunday morning, escorted by the Iraqi army.

Negotiations to resolve the diplomatic standoff are ongoing, said Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi.

Iran, however, dismissed Iraq's allegations of the takeover.

"Our forces are on our own soil and, based on the known international borders, this well belongs to Iran," the armed forces command said on the Web site of Iran's state-run Arabic-language Al-Alam TV.

The Iraqi government had issued a strong statement deploring the act after al-Maliki attended an emergency meeting of Iraq's National Security Council to discuss the situation. Iraq demanded the Iranians withdraw remove an Iranian flag hoisted from the well tower in the takeover on Thursday night.

Senior Iraqi government sources initially referred to the Iranians as security forces, but the official Iraqi government statement later called them an armed group.

Our forces are on our own soil ... this well belongs to Iran
--Iran armed forces command

Alaeddin Borujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, also rejected Iraqi allegations, blaming the international media for distributing propaganda intended to harm relations between Iran and Iraq.

Drilled in 1979, the well near the city of Amara is within the province's Fakka oil field, which includes a number of wells, the Iraqi government said.

The diplomatic scuffle, a manifestation of existing tension between the two neighbors, prompted discussions between Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday, Iran's state-run Press TV reported.

Iraq and Iran share a long border, and high-ranking committees from both countries handle all border matters, an Iranian Embassy official said.

Political, economic, cultural and religious ties between Iran and Iraq, which are both majority Shiite Muslim nations, greatly improved after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003.

At the same time, there has been widespread concern among Iraqi and U.S. officials that Iran has been providing Iraqi insurgents with material for roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

And Iraq and Iran fought a bloody eight-year war that ended in 1988 in a cease-fire with no clear victor and parts of the border under dispute.

The report of the oil-well incident comes just after the oil ministry's two-day auction of oil fields. Aimed at increasing Iraqi oil production, deals were struck for seven of the 15 fields offered.

Iraq, however, was forced to halt its exports from northern oil fields due to an attack -- the fourth in two months -- on a main pipeline Saturday about 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Baghdad, Oil Ministry spokesman Assim Jihad said.