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Shahristani set to face Baghdad's concerns

BAGHDAD, June 4 (UPI) -- Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said he welcomes the opportunity to address lawmakers' questions regarding the Iraqi energy sector during his tenure.

Iraqi lawmakers last week called on Shahristani to appear before Parliament to answer questions regarding perceived neglect during his term as oil minister.

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Iraq depends on oil revenue for 90 percent of its federal budget and in February made drastic cuts and imposed a hiring freeze based on faltering oil-based income.

Shahristani said he thought lawmakers had self-interest in mind but was ready to answer questions on his performance, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"I welcome a discussion in Parliament and the opportunity to tell the Iraqi people about our accomplishments," he said.

Iraq is set as early as this month to award service contracts for development of several of its oil and gas fields. The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, meanwhile, began oil exports from its Tawke and Taq Taq fields Monday.

Oil production from Iraq, however, is short of its pre-invasion levels of 2.5 million barrels per day.

"We've done the best we could given our difficult circumstances," Shahristani said. "There was a time when on average, a pipeline was blown up once a day."

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