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BAGHDAD, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Iraqi forces are deploying tanks and artillery south of a Kurdish-held area of northern Iraq where a section of a Kurdish oil export pipeline is located, security sources said on Monday.
The buildup is taking place northwest of Mosul, an official from the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) security council said by phone from the Kurdish capital, Erbil.
An Iraqi government security advisor said the Fish-Khabur area, northwest of Mosul, is the location of crossings into Turkey and Syria that Baghdad wants to bring under its control. But he declined to say if a military move was being prepared.
A pipeline carrying crude across Iraqi Kurdistan connects to a metering station in Fish-Khabur before feeding another pipeline that takes the crude to the Turkish Mediterranean coast for exports.
The military buildup is taking place around Rabi‘a, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Fish-Khabur, the Kurdish security official said.
Turkey and Iran both support measures taken by the Iraqi government to isolate the KRG after it held a referendum on Kurdish independence on Sept. 25 and to bring the Kurdistan region’s oil exports and land crossings under Baghdad’s authority. “Iraq has shown zero signs of de-escalating,” said a statement by the KRG Security Council about the deployment, adding that units being brought to the region include Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation paramilitaries.
The Fish-Khabur crossing has been under Kurdish control since 1991, when the United States and western powers imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein’s army. The Syrian side of the border in the region is now under the control of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces. (Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; editing by Larry King)