Iraq Seeks Boost In Oil Output

Iraqi worker operates a valve at the oil pipeline near Basra, Iraq, photo, 8/22/2005 AP

Iraq's best chance to boost its languishing oil output is by working with major international companies under production-sharing agreements, Iraq's deputy prime minister said on Sunday.

Barham Saleh said that Iraqi leaders were nearing agreement on a long-awaited hydrocarbon law that would allow potentially huge investments by foreign companies in Iraq's oil sector.

Saleh said he expected the law setting ground rules for managing Iraq's huge petroleum reserves would be approved in parliament by year's end.

Foreign oil companies, with their huge investment clout and latest technology, were best placed to quickly modernize Iraq's oil sector and double the current crude production of 2.5 million barrels per day by 2010, the deputy prime minister said.

"We need to engage with the major oil companies who will bring in investment as well as technology," Saleh told reporters on the sidelines of a conference of international donors in the Emirates capital Abu Dhabi. "We need to change the way we run the oil sector in Iraq."

The lack of a legal framework governing investments and ownership of the country's oil resources has hampered foreign investment in the sector.

In other developments:

  • Iraq's Interior Ministry said security forces killed three al-Qaida in Iraq members during a raid in central Baghdad on Sunday morning. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Kerim Khalaf said police raided a building in the capital's central Karradah district, leading to an hour-long gunfight with the suspects inside. Three Iraqi men who Khalaf said were members of al-Qaeda in Iraq were killed, and a fourth suspect managed to flee.

  • Six bodies, meanwhile, were found in the Tigris River near the city of Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. They were blindfolded, had signs of torture, and their hands and feet were tied, said Maamoun Ajil al-Rubai, an official with the hospital morgue where the bodies were taken.

  • Iraq's prime minister will visit Iran on Monday, the government said Saturday. Nouri al-Maliki's two-day visit will focus on security and bilateral relations, the Cabinet said in a statement.

  • Millions of Shiite pilgrims thronged the streets of the holy city of Karbala Saturday for a religious festival, and Iraqi army and police deployed to prevent possible infiltration from suicide bombers. About 4 million people were in Karbala for the festival observing the birthday of Imam al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, a 9th-century religious leader, said Iraqi armed forces general command spokesman Brig. Qassim al-Musawi.

  • According to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq released Friday, there's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda associates. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush's justification for going to war.
    • Joel Roberts

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