Iraq draft oil law becoming irrelevant

Jan. 21, 2008 at 4:08 PM
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BAGHDAD, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Iraq's Kurds want to focus on reviving the country's oil law, but high-profile talks during a U.S. visit haven't forced progress as they hoped.

Contention between Baghdad and the Kurdish region over the draft oil law has led to a split between Iraq's leaders. Now both sides are condemning each other as they move forward on oil developments unilaterally, pushing aside any relevance to the oil law.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met with KRG Oil Minister Ashti Hawrami and Deputy Prime Minister Omer Fattah Hussain during their Washington visit in November. The United States has designated Undersecretary of State Reuben Jeffrey a top political envoy to focus on the oil law.

But the oil law appears as stuck as before as a power struggle continues over Iraq's political process and the oil sector.

Weekly Petroleum Argus reports the Kurds are asking Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to delegate his energy adviser, Thamir Ghadhban, instead of Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani in new oil law talks in Parliament's Energy Committee.

The KRG wants decentralized oil governance, allowing more rights for producing regions and provinces to develop their respective oil sectors. Others in Iraq believe the central government should keep control over the oil sector strategy. Leaders of political parties representing near 150 parliamentarians signed a pact recently declaring opposition to the KRG oil policy.

The KRG has signed dozens of production-sharing contracts with international oil firms and passed a regional oil law, which has not settled well elsewhere in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Shahristani is starting a process to sign deals for developing Iraq's oil sector. The Oil Ministry has given interested companies until Jan. 31 to submit prequalifying applications. The ministry said companies that have signed deals with the Kurds will not be chosen.

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