Compromises possible to push Russia oil law forward

Jan 24, 1997 01:00 AM

A Russian official seeking approval for oil laws on foreign energy investments said that proponents of the legislation were prepared to compromise with conservatives to get the laws passed. Alexei Mikhailov, head of the State Duma lower parliament house's natural resources committee, told a briefing that compromise was the only way to break the dead-lock over the laws, upon which billions of dollars in planned Western oil contracts depend. "The committee (on natural resources) is prepared to offer a compromise," he said, adding that the body was ready to trim the draft list of oil reserves open to production-sharing deals to 49 fields from 127. He said fields left off the list could be open to production sharing deals, but that they would each require Duma approval on a case-by-case basis. But he said it was still unclear whether such a compromise would be enough to win the support needed to push the laws through the Duma, where communists, nationalists and conservatives can muster over half thevote but not the necessary two-thirds majority. "The most important thing is that dialogue has started," Mikhailov said, referring to talks with conservatives. But he said opposition to the law was still strong. "Very many people have come forward in opposition to this law...there are at least as many opponents as there are supporters," he said. "The main question is whether they are ready for dialogue. If they are, a way can be found," he said, calling on the Duma to pass the list by June. Parliament is discussing amendments to the basic output- sharing law, passed in 1995, to make it compatible with existing laws. The Duma must also pass a list of reserves eligible for development under production-sharing agreements, which allow Western oil firms to develop oil in other countries by financing the projects through exports. Some Duma conservatives and nationalists object to foreign oil firms' participation in Russia, saying it would give away too much for too little.

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