BASRA: Iraq exported 2.8 million barrels of oil per day in February, a top minister said Saturday, a sharp month-on-month gain and the highest such figure in at least a quarter-century.

Production, meanwhile, reached 3.5m bpd, the deputy prime minister for energy affairs, Hussein al-Shahristani, told reporters in the southern port city of Basra as he inaugurated a refinery.

“Production in February was 3.5m barrels per day, and we exported 2.8m barrels per day,” he said.

The export figure was the highest since then dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, triggering a crippling embargo and international sanctions that massively restricted Iraq's energy industry.

In 2012, when average daily exports reached 2.5m barrels per day, the oil ministry said it was the highest such figure since 1989.

Shahristani said February output would have been significantly higher if not for energy disputes with the country's three-province autonomous Kurdish region.

Most of Iraq's crude is exported via its southern terminals near Basra, but a significant portion goes through a northern pipeline that is periodically bombed by militants.

Iraq is heavily dependent on oil exports, and the government is seeking to dramatically ramp up sales to fund the reconstruction of its battered infrastructure.

Officials aim to increase production capacity to 9m bpd by 2017, a target both the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund have warned is overly optimistic.—AFP

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