Iraq's oil exports rose in April to 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd), the country's oil minister said on Tuesday, helping to keep global markets well supplied as shipments from regional rival Iran are crimped by tightening Western sanctions.
Rising exports may help Iraq cement its position as Opec's second-largest producer, even though creaking infrastructure and civil unrest hampering work at some of its top fields have kept the country short of a 2013 target of 2.9 million bpd.
Kirkuk is the key field holding back Iraq from boosting exports. Part of the so-called disputed territories claimed by both the central government and the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north, it sits on 8.5 billion barrels of crude reserves.
"It is a pity as 250,000 bpd of supply from Kurdish fields has been suspended," Iraqi oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said.
"If the supply from the northern region is resumed, on which we continue to have discussions, we think our export target of 2.9 million bpd will be reached."
Iraq's total oil production was 3.1 million bpd in April, Luaibi said, adding that the country was sticking with its 2013 export target, and targets 3.4 million bpd next year.
Iraq's oil exports were 2.417 million bpd in the previous month.