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Major Iraq energy conference postponed

  |   Sept. 10, 2008 at 3:30 PM
A first-of-its-kind energy conference in Iraq has been postponed to December because of delays in construction of the new convention center.

Organizers of the Iraq Energy Expo and Conference, to be held at the new Baghdad International Airport Convention Center, announced the new dates of Dec. 3 to 5, adding they don't think the delay will detract from the event.

"International oil companies want to be on the ground-floor opportunities for Iraq oil and gas business," Raad Ommar, chief executive officer of the Iraqi American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement. "They understand the circumstances Iraq is going through, and any inconvenience this delay might have caused is more than compensated for by the chance to be present at this historic event."

A memorandum from a U.S. Army project purchasing officer said the plan to revamp the old airport terminals into a convention center encountered contractor delays but affirmed the December dates.

The conference, which intends to bring together Iraq's Oil Ministry officials and international oil companies, originally was scheduled for Oct. 17 to 19.

Conferences focusing on Iraq's oil and energy sectors have been held around the world over the past five years, featuring various officials including current and former oil ministers and the world's oil industry leaders.

The Expo has the official endorsement of the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

Iraq's oil reserves are the third largest in the world, but they are highly underproducing, despite steadily increasing production. The sector suffers from years of mismanagement, war and sanctions under Saddam Hussein and the past five years of war.

Iraqi officials are being pressed by the United States and other countries to decentralize and privatize Iraq's long-nationalized oil sector, while domestic pressure mounts to rebuild the once-strong domestic oil institutions and capabilities.

This week the ministry announced a deal with Shell to develop gas resources in the south and moved forward with a bidding process to offer oil development to international oil companies.

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Ben Lando, UPI Energy Editor

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(e-mail: blando@upi.com)

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