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 Iraq Kurdistan region says will try to block oil law

 Source : Reuters
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Iraq Kurdistan region says will try to block oil law  30.4.2007


Iraq's Kurdistan region said it would try to block a draft oil law in parliament.

April 30, 2007

Iraq's Kurdistan region on Sunday said it would try to block a draft oil law in parliament, raising the stakes in a row with the central government over control of the world's third largest oil reserves. The Kurdistan autonomous region appears to be on a collision course with Baghdad over the U.S. -backed draft law at a time when Iraq is engulfed by sectarian violence.

The threat to fight the bill in Iraq's national parliament comes just days after the Oil Ministry in Baghdad warned regions against signing contracts until the landmark law was passed.

"These annexes are unconstitutional and will not be supported by the Kurdish regional government in the federal parliament," Ashti Hawrami, minister of natural resources in Kurdistan, told Reuters in a statement in response to questions.

Hawrami was referring to annexes that he has said would wrest oilfields from regional governments and place them under a new state-oil company.

The draft, which Washington sees as a key step toward reconciling Iraq's warring communities, is vital to securing foreign investment to boost oil output and rebuild its economy.

But officials from Iraq's central government and Kurdistan have clashed over the annexes, raising the prospect of more delays that dogged the lengthy drafting of the legislation.

It was unclear if Hawrami was speaking on behalf of the coalition of Kurdish political parties in Iraq's national parliament that holds 53 seats in the 275-member legislature.

The draft oil law, approved by the cabinet in February, would pass with a simple majority.

Hawrami on Sunday repeated a threat that his oil-rich region would implement its own oil laws if no agreement was reached on the dispute over the annexes. Kurdish officials have already signed deals with foreign oil companies.

"The annexes must recognise that the Kurdish regional government has already allocated exploration and development blocks in the Kurdistan region under Production Sharing Agreements pursuant to the Iraq Constitution," he said.


In a reference to Saddam Hussein, blamed for killing tens of thousands of ethnic Kurds during a scorched-earth campaign in the 1980s, Hawrami said the newly created Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) would be a return to "old regime methods".

"The concentration of power in the hands of INOC will represent a return to method of petroleum management of previous Iraqi regimes, where centralised oil power was ... used to fund violent campaigns by elites against neighbouring countries and against our own Iraqi citizens," he said.

Officials from the central government and Kurdish regional officials have said they would meet to iron out the disputes, but Hawrami said sending a delegation to Baghdad was "futile."

A U.S. government official in Baghdad said on Sunday Washington was confident the law would pass.

"I think that the government is committed to getting the oil law through. I know various bodies have expressed concern about the hyrdrocarbon law given the stakes involved," the official said. "The government has a majority in parliament."



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