Exxon evacuates foreign staff from Iraqi oilfield

DUBAI/BASRA • Exxon Mobil has evacuated all of its foreign staff from Iraq's West Qurna 1 oilfield and is flying them out to Dubai, three sources told Reuters yesterday.

Production at the oilfield is not affected, and work is continuing normally, overseen by Iraqi engineers, Iraqi oil officials said.

"Production is managed by Iraqi engineers anyway; the foreigners are advisers. We have a closed-circuit television link with (the foreign staff) and can communicate with them whenever we need," said an official at Iraq's South Oil Company.

Staff were evacuated in phases late on Friday and early yesterday, either straight to Dubai or to the main camp housing foreign oil company employees in Basra province.

Those in the camp were en route to the airport yesterday morning, said the three sources - an employee at a security company contracted by Exxon, an Iraqi oil official, and a staff member of a foreign oil company.

"Last night, 28 employees were evacuated to the airport and the rest were sent to the camp. This morning, they were evacuated to the airport and no (foreign) staff remain in the field," said the private security company official who oversaw the evacuation.

Days of sabre-rattling between Washington and Teheran have heightened tensions in the region.

The United States last Wednesday pulled non-emergency staff members from its embassy in Baghdad out of concern about perceived threats from neighbouring Iran, to which Iraqi Shi'ite militias are allied.

Washington has increased economic sanctions and built up its military presence in the region, accusing Iran of threats to US troops and interests. Teheran has described those steps as "psychological warfare" and a "political game".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 19, 2019, with the headline 'Exxon evacuates foreign staff from Iraqi oilfield'. Print Edition | Subscribe