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Saddam, KRG oil deals will stand

  |   July 2, 2007 at 12:22 PM
ISTANBUL, Turkey, July 2 (UPI) -- Saddam Hussein's oil deals and those the Kurds have reached with oil companies will be kept but modified to comply with a new Iraqi oil law.

"All of them will be reviewed," said Thamir Ghadhban, energy adviser to Iraq's prime minister. "They will not be canceled. They will not be asked to bid again. They are a special case." All other fields will be put to tender, he said.

Iraq and China are in talks to bring a 1997 deal in line with a yet-to-be approved oil law which, as currently written, forms a federal oil and gas council to review the new deals. The oil law is stuck in negotiations between the federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government over control of certain fields and Ghadhban, leading Baghdad in negotiations with the Kurds, said it is unknown, maybe a couple months, before progress is made.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani last week led a 40-plus member delegation to China. It included Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani.

"China is very important to us because we know that they have rising demand for oil and southeast Asia is very important to Iraq as a market, now and for the future," Ghadhban told reporters in Istanbul, Turkey, following a presentation at the "East Meets West: New Frontiers for Energy Security" conference, organized by Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

The China National Petroleum Corp. is angling to maintain rights to develop the 80,000 barrel per day al-Ahdab oil field, a $1.2 billion deal it signed with Saddam Hussein.

Other past deals -- with Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian firms -- are also still valid, pending oil law issues.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, semi-autonomous in the now relatively safe northern Iraq, has signed five deals with foreign firms to develop its vast oil wealth.

"As far as the contracts signed by the KRG, before and after the fall of the regime, they have also to review them, amend them and present them to the council and the office of independent advisor's decisions will be final," Ghadhban said.

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Ben Lando, UPI Energy Correspondent

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