Iraqi Kurds Brush Off Baghdad Gov't Nullifying Oil Deals

AMMAN Nov 26, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The Kurdistan Regional Government brushed off a statement by Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani in which he declared all oil contracts signed by the Kurdish regional authorities with foreign companies null and void.

"By stating that, al-Shahristani has gone beyond his powers and size," KRG spokesman Jamal Abdullah said in statement published on the KRG Web site.

The KRG has signed 15 oil and gas exploration and exportation contracts with 20 international companies since it passed its own oil law in August, angering the Baghdad government.

Al-Shahristani has in recent weeks angrily denounced the Kurdish authorities for signing the contracts before the national parliament approves a new oil and gas law, declaring them "illegal" and saying the foreign companies who signed these deals would be blacklisted by the Baghdad government.

"Shahristani should file his case to the federal court specialized on solving disputes among Iraqi regions, rather than issuing press statement," the KRG spokesman said.

The deals signed are legal and within the framework of the federal constitution and that of the Kurdistan oil and gas law signed by leader of the KRG Massoud Barzani, Abdullah said.

Under the federal draft oil and gas law, which is still under debate, a federal oil and gas council which is yet to be established is the only body which approves any oil and gas contract signed by regions or provinces all over Iraq. Also under the new draft law, the only body authorized to export Iraqi crude oil and gas, whether produced in the north or the south, is the State Oil Marketing Organization, or SOMO.

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