Iraq needs foreign help to develop oil sector

May 23, 2006 02:00 AM

Iraq's new oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani, said the country needed international help to develop its oil sector. He said the oil sector needed billions of dollars of investment and Iraq couldn't invest an amount of this magnitude on its own.
"There is need to pass an oil and gas law to guarantee the right conditions for international companies to help develop the Iraqi oil sector," he added.

Shahristani also pledged to fight corruption in the industry.
"One of our first priorities is to fight corruption and oil smuggling, and I think that financial corruption is more dangerous than acts of sabotage against oil installations," he told.

Shahristani also said he would tackle the fuel shortage Iraq has suffered over the past few months.
"In a short period -- two to three months -- we are going to solve the problem of the fuel shortage," he said.

Shahristani is a nuclear scientist by training. He was imprisoned in 1979 during Saddam Hussein's rule. He escaped from prison in 1991 and went to Iran where he actively campaigned against Saddam's regime. He has also lived in Canada and returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam in 2003.
Shahristani was an advisor in Saddam's Atomic Energy Organization from 1977 until 1979 when he was imprisoned. Before that he was a professor at the universities of Baghdad and Mosul.

The minister, 64, heads an independent block within the influential Shiite United Alliance. He served as deputy speaker of parliament in the previous National Assembly and carries political weight within the alliance.
Shahristani, while lacking experience of the Iraqi oil sector, is said by people close to him to be a sharp and honest politician.

Source: Dow Jones Newswires
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