Saddam-Era $1.2B Oil Deal with China Seen Revived in April

Iraq and China are close to wrapping up negotiations on a $1.2-billion oil contract that was originally agreed to in 1997 under Saddam Hussein's government, an Oil Ministry official said Thursday.

State-owned China National Petroleum Corp. signed the deal to develop the billion-barrel al-Ahdab oil field 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. The two countries restarted talks in October, 2006.

"We are expecting that the next round of discussions, due to be held in April, will finish the negotiations," the official told The Associated Press.

The official said the Iraqi government presented proposals to amend the original production-sharing contract, with the country's new oil and gas law has bogged down in parliament.

"If they (CNPC) are ready to work, then they will sign the contract," added the official who declined to discuss his ministry's proposals.

The official added that the presence of Wasit province governor, where al-Ahdab oil field is located, in last week discussion that held in Amman, Jordan, "was very important as he assured them about the protection Iraqi security forces can offer in case they want to start working."

Wasit, about 160 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, has been the scene of sporadic attacks since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

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