Details on Iraqi oil minister's visit to Moscow

Mar 27, 2002 01:00 AM

Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rasheed wrapped up his four-day visit to Moscow, saying that his talks with Russian officials had been fruitful and constructive. Moscow and Baghdad are committed to proceeding with plans for long-term cooperation in the energy sector, he said.
The two sides are already partners, he noted. Iraq has signed more than 300 contracts with Russian firms within the framework of the United Nations food-for-oil program, he said. He put the total value of these contracts at about $ 500 mm. Meanwhile, he said, more than 400 Iraqi oil engineers are being trained by Russian oil and gas companies. Some 240 have gone to Russia to train with Tatneft, he said, and another 80 are training with Gazprom.

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to broaden cooperation. Rasheed said he had travelled to Moscow to attend the fourth session of the Russian-Iraqi inter-governmental commission on trade and technology cooperation. The commission, he said, has decided to endorse a long-term accord aimed at bolstering bilateral cooperation, adding that the document was due to be signed by Iraqi and Russian officials in April.
The accord provides for the two sides to finalize 67 contracts worth more than $ 2 bn for projects in the gas, oil, telecommunications and transport sectors, according to Russia's Energy Minister Igor Yusufov. It should be noted, though, that most of these contracts cannot be implemented without the approval of the UN, which has maintained sanctions against Baghdad since 1991.

Relations between Moscow and Baghdad are relatively friendly. The Russians have for some time been urging the UN to lift its restrictions on trade with Iraq, and the Iraqis have responded by giving Russian companies preference in UN food-for-oil deals. Russia has also said it would oppose US attempts to depose the current Iraqi regime by force.
Officials in Baghdad have complained, though, that LUKoil and the other Russian firms that have signed development contracts for Iraqi oil fields have been slow to start work. The companies in turn have pointed out that they are in no position to do anything beyond preliminary work as long as the UN sanctions remain in place.

Source: NewsBase
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