ERBIL, Iraq, May 30 (UPI) -- Iraqi Kurdistan's ministries of Electricity and Natural Resources are to be merged, and current oil chief Ashti Hawrami is likely to be named minister.
Sources here told United Press International that Hawrami is the front-runner for the soon-to-be-established post of KRG minister of energy.
Hawrami, currently minister of natural resources where the hydrocarbons portfolio falls, negotiated and signed nearly all the dozens of deals the KRG has inked with international oil firms to explore for and produce oil and gas.
He's often had public disagreements with the federal Oil Ministry over the deals, which Baghdad calls unilateral and illegal. But he's popular here in Iraq's north and is praised for his leadership by oil companies and politicians.
"He has been doing some good work professionally. He's experienced and talented, and we benefit from his experience. He's professional," said Falah Mustafa Bakir, the head of the KRG's Department of Foreign Relations.
Bakir confirmed the new Energy Ministry but deferred comment on Hawrami's post.
"Nothing is final; therefore I don't like to go into the details," he told UPI, adding "most probably" Hawrami would receive the position. "He is the one. From our side, he is the one."
The KRG has more than 40 ministerial posts, including four with two ministers -- one from each of the two main, and rival, parties: the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
This would be condensed to 23, according to a recent plan approved by political parties but not yet finalized. The PUK and KDP will have eight ministries each. The Kurdistan Islamic Union, Kurdistan Islamic Group, Communist Party, Turkoman Party, a Christian Party, Kurdistan Toilers Party and Kurdistan Democratic Socialist Party each would have one ministry.
Ben Lando, UPI Energy Editor