Iraq oil law timeline unsure

July 2, 2007 at 12:55 PM
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ISTANBUL, Turkey, July 2 (UPI) -- Iraqi oil law negotiators are unsure when they'll reach a compromise on which oil fields the federal or regional governments will control.

"We hope that very soon, definitely within coming months, one or two months from now," Thamir Ghadhban, energy adviser to Iraq's prime minister, told reporters after a presentation at "East Meets West: New Frontiers of Energy Security," a conference in Istanbul, Turkey. The conference was organized by Cambridge Energy Research Associates. He cautioned the timeline was his hope, but it could be sooner or later.

The controversial law would govern how the world's third largest oil reserves would be developed, but detractors have said it incorporates federalism either too heavily or too lightly and allows foreign oil companies too much access.

Negotiators from the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad last week approved a companion law dictating how revenue from oil sales would be split among the federal and local governments, a major breakthrough in talks ongoing for nearly a year. That law, as well as the oil law and bills governing the Ministry of Oil and Iraq National Oil Co., need approval of the council of ministers and Parliament before they are official.

The negotiators had reached a deal on the oil law in February and the council approved it, but the KRG has since contested four annexes, the list dictating which government body has authority over which fields.

Ashti Hawrami, KRG's natural resources minister and lead negotiator, told United Press International this week via mobile phone from Iraq that with the revenue sharing law out of the way the oil law will come back to the front burner.

"We sort of are getting back now to reviewing the draft law and annexes, so it will take some time," he said.

Ghadhban, Hawrami's federal government equivalent at the talks, however, said the question on field control will instead be decided by a council that decides the country's oil policy, per language in the draft oil law.

"So we don't have any more problem called annexes," he said.

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Ben Lando, UPI Energy Correspondent

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