KIRKUK, Iraq — Saboteurs struck a critical oil pipeline in northern Iraq on Monday, the latest in a series of attacks that have halted the country's oil deliveries to Turkey at an estimated cost of $7 million a day.
Adel al-Qazzaz, director general of the Northern Oil Co., said the line attacked Monday had carried 35,000 barrels a day from the Jabour oil field 20 miles southeast of Kirkuk to the main pipeline that originates in the northeastern Iraqi city.
The official said saboteurs set the line afire at a valve at 10:30 a.m., sending huge flames and clouds of smoke into the air. Firefighters had the fire under control by nightfall; about 300 yards of the pipeline were damaged.
L. Paul Bremer, U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, has estimated the country is losing $7 million daily because of damage to the pipeline that carries oil from the Kirkuk fields to a Mediterranean port at Ceyhan in Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Arab League granted the U.S.-appointed Governing Council on Iraq a seat on the 22-member pan-Arab body — despite fears that such recognition could be seen as a sign of support for the American invasion.
The decision is the league's first to officially recognize the council — appointed on July 13 after U.S. forces deposed Saddam Hussein's regime — as an authority able to represent Iraq on the regional stage.
Arab League foreign ministers issued a communique that said the Governing Council was granted a Iraq's seat until a legitimate Iraqi government is formed.
Iraq has the world's second-largest proven crude reserves, at 112 billion barrels, but its pipelines, pumping stations and oil reservoirs are dilapidated after more than a decade of neglect. The Kirkuk fields account for 40 percent of Iraq's oil production; saboteurs have crippled attempts to resume exports.
Income from oil exports is crucial to U.S. plans for rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan line, which was first reported attacked Aug. 18, just days after the major export pipeline began carrying oil to Turkey, was expected to remain closed for five more weeks because of Monday's attack.
For the seventh day in a row, the U.S. military reported no combat deaths Monday — a rare period of calm.
Nevertheless, Britain announced plans to bolster its force in southern Iraq. London said it would send two additional battalions to Iraq, adding 1,200 troops to its 11,000-member force in the region around Basra, the country's second-largest city.
In the only reported attack on U.S. forces Monday, Iraqi guerrillas bombed an American patrol as soldiers were driving out of a tunnel in the center of Baghdad, the military said. The attack wounded two soldiers, damaged two Humvees, one of which turned over and caught fire.
Attacks on American troops have become a serious problem for the Bush administration, which is now asking other countries to help restore security in Iraq. Since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1, 149 soldiers have died in Iraq, 10 more than the number of deaths before May 1.
Iraqis who were aware of Bush's Sunday night speech — in which he promised American soldiers would stay in Iraq until the country was peaceful and had established a sovereign, freely elected government — seemed split on what he said. All those contacted by The Associated Press said they felt his promise of $21 billion next year for rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan was insufficient.
"Iraq alone will need that much to rebuild and repair everything from water plants to electricity generation and power lines to our oil infrastructure," said Monqith Fathi Abdul-Razzaq, a 45-year-old retired army colonel.
He said, however, that he felt the situation in Iraq was "getting better day after day."
But street crime, kidnappings and carjackings still bedevil the country and Bush's words and promised spending were no solace to Moataz Charek, a 47-year-old chemical engineer who lost his job after the Americans occupied Iraq.
"President Bush, with due respect, is lying. He promised freedom. I want to ask him where is my freedom when I don't feel safe leaving the house, when I don't feel my wife is safe when she goes to work, when I don't feel safe sending my children to school," he said.
Bremer told Iraqis the United States had committed an unprecedented sum for rebuilding the country.
His remarks expanded on those of Bush, who also said he would ask Congress for $66 billion for military and intelligence work in Iraq and Afghanistan during the coming fiscal year.
After a meeting with Iraq's new Public Works Minister Nesreen Berwari, a Kurdish woman, Bremer also promised the United States would not leave Iraq before its mission was complete.
"This is one of the largest nonmilitary budgets requested in American history," Bremer said. "It amounts to more than 10 times more than the United States has ever spent in a year in any country.
"And it's a clear, dramatic illustration of the fact that the American people are going to finish the job we started when we liberated Iraq some four months ago," he said.