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Iraq: Talks with oil giants continue

inan Salaheddin, Associated Press Writer


Wednesday August 20, 8:35 am ET

Iraqi oil ministry says negotiations with oil giants are still under way

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A senior Iraqi oil official disputed reports that talks had broken down between Iraq and major international oil companies over deals to boost output, saying Wednesday that negotiations were ongoing.

A U.S. diplomat said Sunday that discussions over no-bid and short-term contracts had stalled and the Iraqi government was likely to abandon them.

The Iraqi official said Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total SA are "still on the table" and "none of them has pulled back" except for the U.S.-based independent Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

The official did not elaborate. He spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly.

Anadarko was the leader a consortium that included Vitol Holding and the United Arab Emirates' Dome International, that would have developed the Luhais oil field in southern Iraq. But the Houston area company abruptly ended talks last week without saying why.

Since late last year, Iraq's Oil Ministry has negotiated with oil majors for two-year service contracts to develop several major oil fields in southern and northern Iraq.

The proposed two-year contracts with Western oil companies raised concerns about the perception that U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein to seize Iraq's vast oil reserves.

Last month, the ministry said it had limited the contracts to one year to avoid overlap with longer-term deals expected to be signed next June. Five of the oil fields up for longer-term development are also included in the no-bid contracts under negotiation.

They are Rumaila, Zubair, West Qurna 1, Maysan and Kirkuk.

Charles Ries, the outgoing chief economic official at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, told reporters that some companies had decided one-year contracts were not worth the investment and he expected most companies to pull out of the talks.

In e-mailed responses to The Associated Press last week, both Chevron and BP confirmed they were still in talks but released no details. Others did not respond.

Iraq is now producing about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, its highest rate since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The government hopes to produce 4.5 million barrels per day by 2013.

Iraq has more than 115 billion barrels of oil in its reserves, but its oil industry has been battered by years of war, U.N. sanctions and insurgents attacks.

The pending deals, once signed, would be something of a stopgap to help Iraq begin to increase production by 500,000 barrels until the country is able to approve a new national oil law -- now held up by political squabbles among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.





:: Article nr. 46559 sent on 20-aug-2008 19:54 ECT

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Link: biz.yahoo.com/ap/080820/iraq_oil.html?.v=1&printer=1



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