Monday, October 08, 2007


Barzani defends Kurdistan's oil deals

Oil, Kurdistan
(AP) -- The leader of Kurdistan on Sunday defended his self-governing region's oil deals with international companies, saying the agreements were not an attempt to usurp the nation's oil resources but a way to make them work for all the people of Iraq. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who wrote an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, said eight contracts already had been signed and two more were expected soon.
The central government in Baghdad is upset about the deals, saying the Kurds should wait until the passage of a national oil law before signing any new contracts. But Barzani countered that the agreements are allowed under the Iraqi constitution, "which gives the regions of Iraq substantial control over natural resources."
"Many in the Iraqi Oil Ministry are locked in a time warp dating back to the regime of Saddam Hussein, in which Baghdad holds tight control of all the resources of Iraq and uses these resources to create obeisance and loyalty to the center," Barzani said.
If exploration leads to oil production, 85 percent of the profits would go to the government and the remainder would go to the companies. The profits would then be split -- giving 83 percent to the central government in Baghdad and 17 percent to the Kurds, Barzani sad. "We want peace and prosperity for the rest of Iraq as well," Barzani said. "We will contribute our fair share and more to that goal."
The Iraqi Cabinet approved a draft oil law last February and forwarded it to parliament, but parliament, citing legal technicalities, kicked it back to the Cabinet. The measure has been bogged down in negotiations ever since. Last August, the Kurds enacted their own oil law to regulate the oil sector in the region, further angering the central government in Baghdad.
"We waited five months for the Iraqi Assembly to pass the agreed draft. They have not acted and there is no sign that they will act anytime soon. We decided to lead from the front," Barzani said in Sunday's letter. "We are not a rogue province seeking an early escape from the chaos that has become Iraq."

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