Iraq oil minister to Russia for oil talks

Aug. 6, 2007 at 3:21 PM

BAGHDAD, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Iraq's oil minister will visit Moscow this week to discuss energy cooperation with a country still interested in reviving a Saddam Hussein-era deal.

Hussain al-Shahristani will be in Russia Aug. 8-10, having been invited by Viktor Khristenko, Russia's energy minister.

Kommersant reports representatives from Lukoil, Russia's leading private oil company, Rosneft, the largest state-owned oil firm, and two state-owned foreign assets firms, Zarubezhneft and Neftegazexport, will also be at the talks.

Lukoil had a deal with Hussein for the lucrative West Qurna 2 field, but it was since overturned. Lukoil and Rosneft are angling for the deal again.

Iraqi officials have said only finalized contracts will be renegotiated with interested parties -- such as a deal with China -- and the Lukoil contract did not qualify. Russians say the deal is still valid, although Iraq terminated it in 2002.

Any deals would all have to be tailored to comply with a federal oil law, which has yet to be approved by the Parliament.

Itar-Tass reports a Russian government source said reviving the deal will be a major topic of discussion.

"In the course of the upcoming negotiations, the parties intend to discuss prospects for resuming cooperation in the energy sphere, in particular the mechanisms to revive the contract to develop the Western Qurna field in Iraq," the source said.

West Qurna has an estimated 6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

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