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Iraq’s Luaibi says Kurdish oil exports to resume soon

Minister - "nothing new" regarding Kurd contracts dispute.

December 27, 2010 2:23 by

Iraq’s new Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi confirmed on Monday that exports from the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region were expected to resume soon.

But he said there was “nothing new” regarding a disagreement between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad over contracts to develop the northern oilfields.

News agency reports last week had quoted Luaibi as saying Baghdad would honour the contracts, such as one Norwegian oil firm DNO  has with the region’s government.

Shares in DNO rose 9 percent after the reports .

Baghdad considers contracts signed by the Kurdistan Regional Government with foreign firms to develop oil fields in the north to be illegal.

With permission from the Kurdish regional government, DNO became the first western company to drill for oil in Iraq after the U.S. invasion of 2003.

But the disagreement between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad over the contracts to develop the fields halted exports from the region last year.

Asked by reporters when Kurdish oil exports would resume, Luaibi said, “There is no specific time, but it will be soon.”

Asked about the reports that Iraq would honour contracts signed by the Kurdish Regional Government, he said:

“(There is) nothing new in this issue. The agreement that we reached with our brothers in Kurdistan in April was that the Kurdish Regional Government is to export all the produced quantities from the region through the Iraqi export network and the revenues will go to the federal budget,” Luaibi said.

“In return for that, the government pledges to pay all the expenses and costs which were used to develop the oil field.”

Before the flow was halted last year, the Kurdish region was exporting around 100,000 barrels per day.

Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq’s former oil minister, said earlier this month Kurdish oil was expected to flow early next year. Shahristani said the region could produce 150,000 bpd next year.

Output from the Kurdish region is seen as a key to boosting exports, which provide Iraq with about 95 percent of its federal revenue. (Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Caroline Drees, editing by Anthony Barker)

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