Sunday, May 13, 2007

Kurds to attempt to negotiate with Iraqi govt. re oil law impasse.

I wonder if this sudden movement is a result of Cheney's meeting with Maliki and attempts to meet one of the US benchmarks, passage of an oil law?

Kurdish Officials To Meet Govt In Baghdad Over Oil
Senior Iraqi Kurdish officials will travel to Baghdad next week hoping to end an impasse with the central government.

Senior Iraqi Kurdish officials will travel to Baghdad next week hoping to end an impasse with the central government over a draft oil law to share revenues from the world's third-largest oil reserves.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, under pressure to push through key legislation Washington says is vital to healing sectarian divisions among Iraq's sects and ethnic groups, told an international economic conference on Iraq last week that the bill had been submitted to parliament for approval.

Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, also speaking ahead of the meeting in Egypt in which industrialised powers pressed reforms in Iraq in exchange for aid, told reporters in Saudi Arabia last week that Kurds were "very happy" with the draft law and that all the groups had agreed to pass it by the end of May.

But an oil industry source told Reuters on Thursday the bill was in a state body charged with drafting legislation, and that Kurds still had misgivings over annexes they say would wrest oilfields from regions and place them under a new state-oil firm.

Iraq's Kurdish Prime Minister Nejruvan Barzani said he will lead a high-level delegation of Kurdish officials to discuss the annexes with the central government next week.

"Next week, new negotiations will start over the appendixes to the oil law and the revenue distribution law. I will participate in a large part of these negotiations," Barzani told reporters in the northern city of Arbil late on Wednesday.

"The Kurds had a big role in writing the draft of the suggested oil law. I am optimistic in resolving the disputes."

An oil law is vital to securing foreign investment to boost Iraq's oil output and rebuild its war-ravaged economy.

But divisive issues not formalised when cabinet passed the law in February, such as how revenues would be shared and who would gain control of discovered but undeveloped oilfields, has delayed its approval.

Barzani has insisted that Kurds want to include a separate law on oil revenue management that would set up a Kurdish fund. The central government has said it wants revenues put in a central account and distributed according to Iraq's population.

Most of Iraq's proven oil reserves are in the Shi'ite south and in the Kurdish north.

A fair distribution of the oil wealth is vital for national reconciliation because Sunni Arabs, who live in areas with no oil in central and western Iraq, fear a bad deal would cut them off from any windfall. Sunni Arabs are the backbone of the insurgency.

Iraq's Deputy Prime minister Barham Salih, the chief architect of the draft oil law, told Reuters in an interview earlier this month he was confident a draft oil law would be approved in parliament after officials from the central government and Kurdistan meet to iron out differences.

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