BAGHDAD -- Iraq says the takeover of a disputed oil well by a group of armed Iranians who crossed the border is a violation of the country's sovereignty and demands the immediate withdrawal of the Iranian forces.
Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the seizure in an area of disputed territory demonstrates the need for a clearly defined southern border with Iran.
Iraq's national security council met tonight to discuss the takeover of well No. 4 by the Iranian group in the Fakka oil field.
Dabbagh said in a statement after the meeting that Iraq and Iran have begun diplomatic talks as a result of the incursion.
"Iraq demands the immediate withdrawal from well No. 4 and the Fakka oil field, which belongs to Iraq. Iraq is looking for a peaceful and diplomatic settlement to this issue," said Dabbagh.
Iraq's deputy interior minister said earlier that 11 Iranian soldiers had crossed the Iran-Iraq border this afternoon, the latest in a series of recent incursions, and taken position at an oil well in the remote desert border area.
Iran denied the incursion into Iraqi territory.
Dabbagh did not give a deadline for withdrawal and did not say what Iraq would do if Iran failed to comply. Officials have summoned Tehran's envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said.
Iraqi officials said the Iranian soldiers crossed into Iraqi territory and raised the Iranian flag at Fakka, whose ownership is disputed by Iran.
Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji said the incursion was the latest of several this week at the field, some 300 kilometers southeast of Baghdad in Maysan Province.
"At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian [soldiers] infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there," he said.
Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency later quoted the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) as rejecting the report.
"The company denies Iranian soldiers taking control of any oil well inside Iraqi territory," Mehr quoted the NIOC as saying.
Khafaji said the well was in Iraqi territory.
"This well is located on Iraqi land, 300 meters inside Iraq. It is disputed between Iran and Iraq. There was an agreement between the two countries' oil ministers to fix this problem diplomatically," he said.
A senior engineer from Maysan Oil Company, which operates the field, said Iranian troops had taken temporary control of one of the field's seven wells, an inoperative well in a disputed border area, four or five times this year.
"Iranian forces come to this well periodically, and then at daybreak they withdraw. They are provoking us...I don't know why this is a big deal this time," he said, on condition of anonymity.
compiled from agency reports