The US oil company ExxonMobil has reportedly evacuated all of its foreign staff from an oilfield west of Basra, in Iraq, and is flying them to Dubai.
The move came after the US pulled non-emergency staff from its embassy in the capital, Baghdad, on Wednesday out of apparent concern over perceived threats from neighbouring Iran, to which Iraqi Shia militias are allied.
Increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran have heightened fears in the region about a potential conflict.
Citing a senior Iraqi official and three other sources, the Reuters news agency said ExxonMobil staff had been evacuated from the West Qurna 1 oilfield on Saturday.
Production at the oilfield was not affected by the evacuation and work was continuing normally, overseen by Iraqi engineers, according to Ihsan Abdul Jabbar, the head of the Iraqi state-owned South Oil Company.
“ExxonMobil’s evacuation is a precautionary and temporary measure,” he said. “We have no indication over any dangers, the situation is secure and very stable at the oilfield, which is running at full capacity and producing 440,000 bpd [barrels per day].”
He said the evacuated engineers would provide advice and work from the company’s Dubai offices.
“We have no concerns at all,” Jabbar said, adding that production is managed by Iraqi engineers and the foreign staff were there mainly as advisers.
ExxonMobil’s staff were evacuated in several phases late on Friday and early on Saturday, either straight to Dubai or to the main camp housing foreign oil company employees in Basra province, Reuters said.
Washington has increased economic sanctions against Iran and built up its military presence in the region, accusing Tehran of threatening US troops and interests. Tehran has described the steps as “psychological warfare” and a “political game”.