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Iraq oil exports plunge to 19-month low

An aerial view shows the Halfaya oil field near the southern city of Amara on January 25, 2010

Iraq's oil exports hit a 19-month low in September, oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said on Sunday, attributing the decline to maintenance and improvement projects at the country's ports.

Iraq exported 62.1 million barrels of oil in September, or about 2.07 million barrels per day (bpd), Jihad said -- the lowest daily average since February 2012.

The country earned $6.511 billion from the exports, its lowest monthly figure in over a year.

Sales of crude, which account for the vast majority of Iraq's government income, had averaged 2.579 million bpd in August and raised revenues of $8.3 billion.

Jihad said the September decline was due to "periodic maintenance activities for the southern ports and projects" to add new floating oil storage facilities and increase the ports' export capacities.

Iraq is heavily dependent on oil exports, and the government is seeking to dramatically ramp up its sales in the coming years to fund the reconstruction of its battered infrastructure.

Officials are aiming to increase production capacity to nine million bpd by 2017, a target that the International Monetary Fund and International Energy Agency have warned is over-optimistic.