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Allawi: Oil sabotage has cost Iraqis $1 billion

Environmental hit 'hard to evaluate,' interim prime minister says

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Environmental pollution

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's interim prime minister said Saturday that his country has lost $1 billion to insurgent attacks on the oil infrastructure and the ripple effect across the economy.

Iyad Allawi made his remarks during a visit with Oil Minister Thamir Ghadbhan to an oil spill caused by pipeline sabotage in Babil province.

"What you are seeing is the traces of a big crime which is committed against Iraq and Iraqi people by groups [that have lost their way] and are insisting on crime, attacking Iraq's sovereignty, attacking the stability of Iraq and the continuous hits to the oil infrastructure," Allawi said.

Saboteurs have stepped up their attacks in recent weeks in Iraq's north and south.

Allawi said the indirect economic costs are still being studied. The environmental pollution "is hard to evaluate," he said.

"The amount of losses which affected Iraq on the farmers and on the water and on the water pollution -- they are all issues which make the citizen face great danger and threatens the livelihood of the farmers and makes them face a wide spectrum of difficulties," he said.

He said the $1 billion was, in effect, "taken from the pockets of the average Iraqi and the average Iraqi family," and that the loss will affect pensions.

Ghadbhan said the ministry has signed contracts with clans throughout the country to protect pipelines. He said the Ministry of Oil has started a force to protect the lines as well.

"We hope that with time the force will improve and the protection measures will improve, and what is more important is that cooperation of the citizens to protect their oil wealth," Ghadbhan said.

Attacks this week halted oil exports in the south, and the coalition hopes the exports could resume as early as Sunday.

Ghadbhan said it will be resumed in the south "very soon."

"We hope that in a short period of time we'll go back to the former export rate. It is known that we used to export around 1.7 million barrels [per day] in the south," he said.

Sabotage has reduced oil exports in the north to a trickle.

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