By Lina Saigol in London and Michael Peel, Middle East correspondent
Iraq is quietly shipping vital supplies of fuel oil to Syria in a deal that has triggered concern in Washington and exposes Damascusís difficulties keeping its economy afloat in the face of a growing civil war and economic sanctions.
Nouri al-Malikiís Baghdad government agreed in June to supply 720,000 tons of fuel oil to Syria in monthly shipments as part of a one-year, renewable supply contract, according to commercial documents seen by the Financial Times.
In June and July, Baghdadís oil ministry delivered two shipments of fuel oil, which is used for power generation, worth US$14m in total, to President Bashar al-Assadís regime. Syria paid in cash, the documents show.
While the figures to date are relatively small, the deal highlights the ad hoc efforts Mr Assadís embattled regime is having to make to keep shortages at bay as the war spreads. It also underlines the more active role Iraq is now playing in the region.