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Iraqi Kurdistan Suspends DNO's Oil Operations

Source: Reuters 9/21/2009, Location: Middle East

The authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan said on Monday they were suspending for six weeks the oilfield operations of Norwegian oil exploration firm DNO International. The Kurdistan Regional Government said in a statement on its website that reports out of Norway had done it "unjustifiable and incalculable harm" but provided no further details. It demanded DNO remedy the damage done to the KRG's reputation.

"All oil exports will cease and DNO shall not be entitled to any economic interest in the (Kurdish oil contracts) during the suspension period," Kurdish natural resources minister Ashti Hawrami said in the statement, which was also published on DNO's website.

Contacted by telephone while travelling overseas, Hawrami declined to elaborate.

DNO is one of several foreign companies that has signed deals with the KRG to develop the semi-autonomous northern Iraqi region's oilfields.

The agreements are opposed by the federal Iraqi government, which has called them illegal, but in a shift Baghdad in June started to allow exports to flow from two Kurdish fields.

One of the fields, Tawke, which is producing 40,000 barrels per day to 50,000 bpd, was developed by DNO. The other, Taq Taq, was developed by Swiss explorer Addax Petroleum, recently bought by China's Sinopec, and Turkish firm Genel Enerji.

DNO said it strongly rejected a decision by the Oslo Stock Exchange to publicize information related to the sale of treasury shares by the company in October 2008.

It accused the exchange of breaching its confidentiality obligations by releasing the information, causing the media to publish "speculative, misleading and incorrect information" that also harmed DNO's reputation.

"DNO is now considering initiating legal actions against OSE for damages as a result of wilful breach of confidentiality. The claim for damages may be substantial," the company said in a statement on its website. The Oslo bourse declined to comment. "No comment on this tonight. We will discuss this issue tomorrow," a spokesman said.

On Sept 19, the KRG issued a statement saying it had facilitated DNO's treasury shares transaction with the intention of helping DNO to raise the capital required for its projects in the Kurdish region.

"We wish to make it absolutely clear that neither the KRG nor any of its ministries, officials, employees or advisers has benefited directly or indirectly, through DNO or Genel Enerji, from the transaction or subsequent resale of the shares referred to by OSE," it said.

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