Biden Calls on Iraq to Lower Sights in Oil Bidding

BAGHDAD (AFP via Dow Jones Newswires), Sept. 17, 2009

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has urged Iraq to offer more generous terms at its next auction for oil concessions in the oil-rich country, a senior American official said Thursday.

Biden, who arrived in Iraq Tuesday, "made clear that the next round of bidding on oil concessions should be made on more generous terms to attract more outside interest," the official said, declining to be named.

"Only one of eight deals up for bidding earlier this year was taken," he said, referring to Iraq's first tender offer in four decades last June that saw investors snub all but one of the contracts on offer.

The official said that "even one other deal would mean 50 to 60 billion dollars in additional investment in Iraq, 600 million dollars in additional annual revenue, and tens of thousands of additional jobs.

"Ultimately, in our judgment, it's in the interest of every Iraqi to accept a smaller piece of a much bigger pie."

The official said Biden had also pushed for an early vote on a new Iraqi oil law amid disputes over shares between officials in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

The vice president was to deliver the same message when he meets Kurdish leaders in the north of Thursday, stressing that a new law was "in the best interest of the country" as whole.

The second round of bidding for Iraq's oil contracts is due to take place in the first half of December ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the following month.  

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