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Iraq to open up oil fields for first time in 4 decades
Baghdad, Jun 29 (Agencies):
Published on 29 Jun. 2009 11:53 PM IST
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Iraq is this week due to unveil which foreign firms have won contracts to develop its oil and gas fields, nearly four decades after Saddam Hussein’s party nationalised the country’s energy infrastructure. The deals, likely to be announced live on television, will provide the government with much-needed revenue as it struggles to rebuild the country after three wars and 20 years of debilitating economic sanctions. The event, originally billed to last for two days starting Monday, was unexpectedly delayed by one day due to sandstorms that prevented oil company representatives and international media from landing in Baghdad on Sunday. “The meeting will now start on Tuesday and if necessary continue into the following day,” oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said. Thirty-one companies have submitted bids to develop six giant oil fields and two gas fields. The oil deposits, holding known reserves of 43 billion barrels of crude, are in southern and northern Iraq while the gas concessions are west and northeast of Baghdad. “Our principal objective is to increase our oil production from 2.4 million barrels per day to more than four million in the next five years,” Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said in an interview with Iraqi public television. Increasing production to that level will, according to him, pump an extra 1.7 trillion dollars into government coffers over the next 20 years. Shahristani has said that only 30 billion dollars of that sum will go to the companies that have extracted the oil. “This is a huge amount that would finance infrastructure projects across Iraq -- schools, roads, airports, housing, hospitals,” he said, insisting that the country would retain control over its oil reserves.

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