Iraq sets sights on No. 1 at OPEC

April 19, 2012 at 7:53 AM

LONDON, April 19 (UPI) -- Iraq has moved to the top of the list of countries with lucrative oil reserves, the country's deputy prime minister said.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said Iraq has proven oil reserves of 143 billion barrels plus potential reserves of around 214 billion barrels, which he said "puts Iraq at the top of the list of countries with large reserves," reports Bloomberg News.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ranks Venezuela at No. 1 with 296.5 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves.

Iraq next month is expected to put around a dozen oil and natural gas blocks up for auction during its fourth international licensing round.

Shahristani said his totals don't include oil reserves in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of the country.

Afren, an oil company listed in London, announced this week that it discovered "a significant oil accumulation" in its assets in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government announced April 2 that it halted exports because it hadn't received $1.5 billion it says the KRG is owed by Baghdad for oil deliveries.

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