Iraq appoints Ibrahim Bahr Al Uloum as oil minister

Sep 02, 2003 02:00 AM

Iraq appointed former exile Ibrahim Bahr Al Uloum, son of a leading Shiite scholar, as its first post-war oil minister. The 49-year-old US-educated son of Iraqi Governing Council member Mohammed Bahr Al Uloum faces a tough task in overseeing the revival of Iraq's dilapidated and war-damaged oil sector, Baghdad's only significant revenue earner.
A political appointee based before the war in London and representing Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, he will oversee day-to-day running of the oil ministry. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the largest Shiite groups in the country, had backed Uloum for the position, Iraqis familiar with the selection process said.

But there is no prime minister and overall authority remains with US governor Paul Bremer until an elected government is installed. An unknown quantity at the oil ministry, Uloum holds a PHD in petroleum engineering from New Mexico University. He will need to rely on the cooperation of long-standing Iraqi oil technocrats who worked under former leader Saddam Hussein.
The new minister immediately received the backing of Thamir Ghadhban, acting oil minister since early May, who said he would stay on to help.
"I did not want to be oil minister. I personally requested that I not be oil minister," Ghadhban, who apparently had been the US-backed first choice for the post, told. "I'm willing to continue at the ministry, there's lots of work to be done."

Some in Baghdad fear Uloum may support the early privatisation of Iraq's huge oil reserves to US and other foreign oil companies. He attended pre-war meetings of the US State Department's future of Iraq project which recommended foreign firms be invited to develop the fields. Iraqi oil officials said the minister could at least expect a honeymoon period of support.
"We expected this. It's a political position," said one senior Iraqi official in Baghdad.

Source: AP
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