January 8, 2020 / 5:38 AM / 13 days ago

China's CNPC pulls staff from Iraq oilfield amid Mideast tensions

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) - China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) has pulled out about 20 employees from the West Qurna-1 oilfield in Iraq as tensions in the region have escalated, a Beijing-based source from the company familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

CNPC declined to comment on the matter.

The West Qurna-1 oilfield is jointly developed by CNPC and Exxon Mobil, with the U.S. major as the operator.

“CNPC pulled out its staff from West Qurna on Jan. 5, following Exxon’s direction as they are the operator, right after the U.S. killing of Soleimani,” the source said.

Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the elite Quds Force, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq last week.

Iran launched missile attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike on the Iranian commander, fuelling fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

Exxon Mobil did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

CNPC maintained its staff of close to 60 at Rumaila, another Iraqi oilfield that is a joint venture with BP as the operator, said the source, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the press.

At Halfaya, a third major oilfield in Iraq where CNPC works as an operator, the Chinese state oil firm maintains a team of around 100.

“Teams at Rumaila and Halyafa update headquarters on the securities situation on a daily basis. For now there’s no plan for evacuations,” the source added.

Reporting by Chen Aizhu in SINGAPORE, Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh in BEIJING; additional reporting by Shu Zhang in Singapore; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Himani Sarkar

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