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ExxonMobil 'closely monitoring' Iraqi operations as Iran tensions mount

London — ExxonMobil said Wednesday it is 'closely monitoring' the situation in Iraq following the US State Department's order for the partial evacuation of diplomatic staff amid rising tensions between the US and Iraq's neighbor Iran.

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ExxonMobil's West Qurna 1 project is one of three giant oil fields in Iraq's southern Basra region being developed by foreign oil companies. BP's Rumaila field and Eni's Zubair project are the other two while Russia's Lukoil is developing the West Qurna 2 project.

"We are closely monitoring the situation...ExxonMobil has programs and measures in place to provide security to protect its people, operations and facilities," a spokeswoman for Exxon said in an emailed response.

BP is also monitoring the current situation on the ground in Iraq, an official close to the company said Wednesday. Eni said they are preparing a response.

Chevron, which is developing an oil project in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region, said: "We continue monitoring the situation and we remain in regular contact with the Kurdistan Regional Government. The safety and security of our personnel is our top priority."

Without giving a reason, the State Department Wednesday ordered the departure of "non-emergency employees" from its embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.

Citing unnamed US officials, CNN reported Wednesday that US had "specific and credible" intelligence that suggested Iranian forces and proxies were planning to target US forces in locations including Iraq." The US last week said it was deploying an aircraft carrier and other military assets to the region, citing what it claimed were Iran's "escalatory actions."

US tensions with Iran have been escalating after President Donald Trump move to reinstate full US sanctions on sales of Iranian oil came into effect from the start of this month. Tensions escalated further this week after an attack claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen halted flows through Saudi Arabia's main oil transport pipeline to the Red Sea.

The drone attack came just days after one of the biggest attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz transit chokepoint, fueling concerns over a new wave of coordinated strikes on key oil infrastructure and transit routes in the Middle East.

--Staff, --Edited by Jonathan Dart,