BAGHDAD, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- It isn't currently permissible for Iraqis to be employed by foreign oil companies working in the south, Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr ruled.
Sadr, who is carrying out clerical studies in Iran, said in a religious edict that working for foreign oil companies in the south of the country wasn't allowed but could be sanctioned if the company's work was deemed legitimate, The Wall Street Journal reports.
"In the name of the Almighty, presently not, this is prohibited," the ruling from the cleric reads.
Salah al-Obeidi, a Sadr spokesman, said his supporters believe many foreign licenses in Iraq "must be re-examined."
Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker loyal to the cleric, said critics are looking for an independent audit of contracts in Maysan province where a group led by China National Petroleum Corp. is looking to cash in on oil reserves.
Officials with an oil company in Maysan said they "can't interfere" with religious rulings but lamented the possible loss of work for Iraqis.
Asim Jihad, a spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry, said, "The ministry does not get involved in the fatwas of clerics and tries to stay away from these matters."