Iraq, China oil deal talks progress

March 6, 2008 at 6:35 PM
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KUT, Iraq, March 6 (UPI) -- The governor of Iraq's Wasit province says he renegotiated a Saddam-era oil deal with the China National Petroleum Corp.

Iraq's Oil Ministry said previously it would attempt to bring the deal -- still considered valid under international law -- and a handful others like it in line with Iraq's new hydrocarbons legal regime. Baghdad hasn't announced its official endorsement of the Wasit deal yet.

"The Province of Wasit has given the Chinese side assurances and guarantees of providing the necessary security and removing any hurdles on the path of Chinese operations in the province," said governor Latif Tarfah, who led a delegation in talks with CNPC in Amman last week, Azzaman reports.

CNPC is angling to maintain rights to develop the Ahdab oil field in Wasit with an estimated 1 billion barrels in reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It signed the $1.2 billion deal with Saddam Hussein in 1997. Firms from Vietnam, India and Indonesia, among others, also signed as the dictator attempted to increase oil profits.

"All of them will be reviewed," Thamir Ghadhban, energy adviser to Iraq's prime minister, said last June at an Istanbul energy conference. "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.

Because the deals were valid at the time of regime change, they are still legal. Iraq, however, is altering its completely top-down oil sector and intends to create a new legal framework. The extent of decentralization, as well as the rights of foreign and private companies, is still in dispute.

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