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Iraq, China to Revive 1997 Oil Deal as Baghdad Seeks Invest

Source: www.gulfoilandgas.com 10/30/2006, Location: Middle East

China and Iraq are reviving a 1997 deal worth $1.2 billion signed by Beijing and Saddam Hussein's government to develop an Iraqi oil field, Baghdad's oil minister said Saturday. Officials will meet next month to renegotiate the agreement over the al-Ahdab field, said Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani. He was wrapping up a three-nation tour to secure investment to revive his country's oil industry.

"If agreement is reached very quickly then I expect them to start working right away," al-Shahristani said at a news conference.

State-owned China National Petroleum Corp. signed the al-Ahdab deal in the midst of U.N. sanctions that barred direct dealings with Iraq's oil industry. Beijing was waiting for sanctions to end when the U.S. invasion in 2003 overthrew Saddam's government.

Beijing had been thought to be out of the running for major contracts in postwar Iraq, with the best deals going to the United States and its allies. But the upsurge in violence there has made the country less attractive to Western producers.

Al-Shahristani said al-Ahdab would be among the first fields offered to foreign bidders, which will need to show technical and financial capability and a proven record in producing oil. Iraq will need up to $20 billion in investment to develop its oil infrastructure, the minister said.

Al-Shahristani met with Chinese energy officials and executives of the country's four biggest oil companies - CNPC, China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Sinochem Corp.

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