11/12/2008, 00.00
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China concludes biggest oil agreement since Saddam

It is worth 3.5 billion dollars, and provides for exploration and development in the extensive oil fields of Ahdab, estimated to be able to produce at least 90,000 barrels a day. Iraq wants to triple its production of crude, and expects that other agreements could be announced soon.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - An agreement worth 3.5 billion dollars between Iraq and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), for exploration and development, over 20 years, of the the oil fields of Ahdab in eastern Wasit, which Baghdad estimates could produce 90,000 barrels of crude per day (bpd).

But the CNPC, in conjunction with another Chinese company, Norinco, maintains that the use of "advanced" technologies could produce 115,000 bpd within three years. It is the largest agreement between Baghdad and a foreign company since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Experts predict that this contract could open the way to the announcement of other agreements that Iraq is currently negotiating.

Ahmed al-Shamaa, Iraq's deputy oil minister who announced the agreement, comments that a similar contract was reached by the CNPC in 1997, with Saddam Hussein. But he says that the former agreement was for a production-sharing contract, while this is a service contract.

Iraq is third in the world for oil reserves, but the war and the previous sanctions against Saddam have seriously compromised its production until now. Now it wants to triple this, and reach 6 million bpd by 2016, with the help of foreign companies.

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