Iraq Parliament Starts Debate on Reviving National Oil Company

(Dow Jones Newswires), July 4, 2011

The Iraqi parliament has held its first hearing session to pave the way for the debate on a controversial draft law to reestablish the Iraqi National Oil Company, which the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime invalidated in the 1980s, officials said Monday.

The session was attended by the country's Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi, two former oil ministers Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloom and Thamer al-Ghadhban as well as the head and members of the parliament's oil and energy committee and several Iraqi oil experts.

Absent from the parliamentary hearing was deputy prime minister for energy affairs Hussein al-Shahristani, a key ally of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

A draft law of the long-awaited new national oil company, which would revive a company originally established in the 1960s and merged into the Iraqi oil ministry in 1987, was passed by the then cabinet in July 2009 but has been stalled in the parliament since.

Oil minister Luaibi told the hearing that creation of a new Iraqi National Oil Company is not essential and "it would add nothing to the Iraqi oil sector."

While speaker of the parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, head of the parliament oil and energy committee Adnan al-Janabi and Ghadhban who is also the current top energy advisor to Prime Minister al-Maliik, voiced their support for reviving the company.

The INOC, if restored, would act as the parent of the existing South Oil Co., Iraq's largest petroleum company, North Oil Co., Missan Oil Co. and Midland Oil Co.

According to its draft law, the INOC would spearhead national and local strategy. It would carry out all sorts of oil operations from exploration down to marketing. The firm would also partner with or even compete against foreign companies to develop Iraqi fields.

The INOC will be a cabinet-level organization led by a president with ministerial rank. The company's board will include officials from the ministries of oil, finance and planning and the Central Bank of Iraq.

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