04/03/2009, 00.00
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Baghdad bans two South Korean companies from oil fields

The companies in question signed a deal with the Kurdish regional government, which according to the Iraqi oil minister is “against Iraqi law”. Oil fields in and around Kirkuk are also a bone of contention between the central government and the Kurds.
Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Iraqi government penalised two South Korean oil firms by banning them from taking part in Iraqi tenders. Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said the two companies were excluded because of oil contracts they signed last year with the Kurdish regional government.

In June 2008 the state-owned Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) and SK Energy were granted access to eight oilfields believed to hold 7.2 billion barrels of untapped crude in exchange for a 2.2 billion investments to develop the region's infrastructure.

“The signing of this contract is against Iraqi law and its constitution,” Shahristani said in a statement. “For that reason these two companies have been prevented from taking part in tenders. If these companies cancel this contract they will be able to take part in the next contract tender.”

In April 2008 the Iraqi government decided to authorise 35 foreign companies (out of 120 applicants) to develop the country’s rich gas and oil fields, the third largest in the world, which are in need of a massive infusion of capital after years of war and embargo.

A sticking point is Kirkuk and its oil-rich surrounding area, which is a bone of contention between the central and Kurdish governments. 

“Security is no longer the real problem,” sources told AsiaNews. “The relationship between the central government and Kurds is. In Kirkuk Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds are vying for control, each side bent on controlling the oil resource. It is a very delicate issue and is bound to get worse in the future when US troops pull out.”

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