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Iraq hopes to call open race for its oil in Sept
09/08/2007

Reuters - 1 hour 14 minutes ago

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Iraq hopes to call an open race as early as September for its prized oilfields, its oil minister said on Thursday after talks in Moscow dashed Russian hopes of getting a slice of oil reserves on preferential terms.

Hussain al-Shahristani told Reuters he hoped parliament would pass the key new oil legislation after the holidays, opening the way for tenders for specific fields.

"We have been informed that they will come back to work in the first week of September and pass the law by the end of September," he said.

"There will be no specific talks with any company over any particular field. What will happen is that Iraq will announce the development of certain fields and all qualified oil companies can come and compete."

He also said that all 27 producing fields in Iraq will be transferred to the national oil company, which will be free to decide whether it wants to have partners or not.

The 27 fields include West Qurna, he said.

Russian oil major LUKOIL had hoped to revive a $4 billion (1.97 billion pound) Saddam-era deal to develop West Qurna, but the minister said the issue was not specifically raised at his meeting with Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko.

The meeting lasted for two hours and LUKOIL's top executives attended.

Russia did not support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, prompting analysts to speculate that its chances of reviving old deals were slim.

Some analysts have however said U.S. oil major ConocoPhillips, which holds 20 percent in LUKOIL, could help the Russian company revive the contract.

Shahristani said he could not understand why the deal should be revived, especially after it was scrapped in the late days of Saddam's government on the grounds that LUKOIL has done nothing to launch the fields since 1997.

"This deal was signed and scrapped by the previous regime. There are documents in the ministry's archive saying that the contract is terminated because its terms are not met," he said.

He also said Moscow was making no connection between Iraq's $10 billion outstanding debt to Russia and oil contracts.

"It has been clear in our discussions (in Moscow)," he said.

Iraq hopes to call open race for its oil in Sept -  Source


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