ExxonMobil staff to return to work in Iraq: ministry

Baghdad (AFP) –


Foreign employees of US energy major ExxonMobil will return to work near Iraq's border with Iran Sunday, the oil ministry said, two weeks after being evacuated over tensions between Washington and Tehran.

"ExxonMobil accepted that the 83 employees evacuated will resume their posts from Sunday," spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP.

He said Iraqi authorities, which had slammed the decision to pull out the workers from the West Qurna oil field as political, have taken "the necessary security measures for their return".

ExxonMobil pulled out its expatriate employees from the southern oil field after the US ordered non-essential personnel to quit its diplomatic missions in the country on May 15.

Washington cited an "imminent" threat from Tehran-linked armed groups in Iraq as tensions fuelled by US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal spiked.

It came 10 days after the Pentagon deployed an aircraft carrier task force and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to fend off an unspecified alleged plot by Tehran to attack US forces or allies.

Oil ministry spokesman Jihad insisted that the absence of the foreign workers had not affected production as the bulk of the workforce is Iraqi.