Iraqi oil minister says Exxon Mobil's evacuation 'unacceptable'

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Iraq's Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadhban said Sunday that Exxon Mobil's evacuation of its foreign workers from the West Qurna 1 oilfield in Iraq's southern province of Basra was "unacceptable and unjustified."

"The withdrawal of Exxon Mobil workers from West Qurna 1, despite their small number and whether temporarily or precautionary, has nothing to do with the security situation or threats in the oilfields in southern Iraq, but is for political reasons," al-Ghadhban said in a statement.

"The withdrawal is unacceptable and unjustified because other international companies are working freely and safely in developing the oilfields," Ghadhban said.

"Such withdrawal may send false messages about the situation in Iraq, and this is something that we do not accept at all," Ghadhban warned.

He said that he sent a letter to the Exxon Mobil's officials asking for clarification, demanding the return of its staff to work, according to the statement.

Ghadhban's comments came a day after the U.S. Exxon Mobil oil company evacuated all its foreign workers out of West Qurna 1 oil field in Iraq's southern province of Basra.

The company started the evacuation on Friday and continued until early Saturday, as some of its staff were moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and some to the company's main headquarters in Basra.

However, the oil production of West Qurna 1 oil field was not affected by the evacuation as the work was continued by the Iraqi engineers, according to media reports.

The evacuation came amid the tense situation in the region after U.S. President Donald Trump decided not to re-issue the sanctions waivers for major importers to continue buying Iran's oil when they expired in early May.

The United States has also increased its military activities in the region recently, citing a threat of Iranian "attack."

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