Iraq unions against oil privatization

Dec. 14, 2006 at 7:29 PM

AMMAN, Jordan, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Five Iraqi trade union federations have condemned federal oil law negotiations for being too corporation-friendly.

The leaders of the five federations meeting in Amman released a statement Thursday urging a pause in negotiations over a law to govern Iraq's 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, the third largest in the world.

Negotiations in some form have been ongoing since the invasion of Iraq, officially and earnestly since earlier this year. News reports and comments from those familiar with the talks say privatization of some form is a major component of a draft law.

This was confirmed last week by Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati, who told United Press International the "intention is to allow foreign companies to invest in all sectors, including oil."

"The handling of control over oil to foreign companies, whose aim is to make big profits at the expense of the Iraqi people, and to rob the national wealth, according to long-term, unfair contracts, that undermine the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the Iraqi people" is a "red line" not to be crossed, the unions said in a joint statement.

They also shot at the context of negotiations, which happen behind closed doors and won't be made public until the Parliament votes, according to a release from the social and environmental issues group Platform.

"This law has a lot of problems," said Hasan Jum'a, president of the Federation of Oil Unions. "It was prepared without consulting Iraqi experts, Iraqi civil society or trade unions. We reject this draft and demand more time to debate the law."

Iraq's oil law is seen as a major hurdle and step for the country:

Kurds and some Shiite factions favor more regional control than the Sunnis and other Shiites want, a major stalling factor in the talks.

But oil revenue makes up nearly all of Iraq's budget, money that could go towards improving the oil sector specifically and security in the country as a whole, along with other reconstruction.

A law is needed to decide how any of this takes place.

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