BAGHDAD, (AP) – Iraq’s oil production and exports have risen to their highest levels since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Oil Ministry said Monday.
The country’s exports reached 2.11 million barrels a day in March while the total output stood at about 2.5 million barrels a day, spokesman Assem Jihad told The Associated Press.
“The figures in May showed that we have succeeded in reaching the prewar levels both in production and exports,” he said.
The Energy Information Administration, part of the U.S. Energy Department, estimated Iraqi production at about 2.6 million barrels a day in early 2003. Production tapered off just before the U.S.-led invasion, then dropped to below 1.5 million barrels a day, according to the group.
Oil exports were down last month because of the fighting between government forces and militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Basra province, the center of the southern oil industry.
The fighting ended with a truce brokered in Iran.
Iraq sits on the world’s third-largest proven petroleum reserves, totaling more than 115 billion barrels. But the industry is plagued by a lack of modern equipment and training after decades of U.N. sanctions, war and Saddam Hussein’s ruinous rule.
The country plans to boost oil output to 3 million barrels a day by the end of 2008 and 4.5 million barrels a day by end of 2013.
Iraq hopes to earn about $70 billion in oil revenues this year if crude oil prices remain high and the country maintains stability in major producing areas.