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Explosions on gas pipeline in northern Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — Two explosions damaged an oil pipeline in northern Iraq in what Turkey's foreign minister called sabotage, but U.S. and another Turkish official said may have been an accident.

The explosions Thursday night were in the Makhoul region, about 155 miles north of Baghdad, on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.

"There was sabotage. There is an investigation about the magnitude," said Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in Ankara.

But U.S. Army spokesman Capt. John Morgan said the explosions appeared similar to previous accidents, and he dismissed initial reports of a bombing. "It doesn't appear to be anything different than previous explosions in that area," he said.

Later, a Turkish official said explosions were still under investigation and he did not rule out the possibility of an accident. "We are waiting for a full report," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Army and Iraqi engineers began inspecting and repairing the rupture Friday.

The Iranian-financed Al Aalam television station quoted witnesses as saying they saw fires erupting on the oil pipeline from two bombs.

Al Aalam said the explosion were a deliberate attack designed to thwart Iraq's first oil export deal since the end of the war to oust Saddam Hussein two months ago.

The explosions came a day after Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization announced a tender for 9.5 million barrels awarded to U.S. and European refineries for export during the second half of June.