Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Al-Ahdab oil field raided by Iraqi provincial officials

Iraq's Oil Ministry has accused provincial officials and local police of raiding an oil field, in the southern province of Wasit, currently developed by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). A local council member, Majed Askar, said the officials went to the field on Sunday [26th September] to investigate complaints over the contracts signed by the Iraqi government and CNPC.

The Oil Ministry released a statement saying that the Al-Ahdab oil field was a sovereign site subject to the control of the federal government only and, "intervention of the provincial councils in the ministry's job is a clear legal violation".

The Wasit council party and police demanded to see copies of all contracts signed by the Chinese company, said Chief engineer at the field Ahmed Abdul Ridha.

"When we saw the situation was about to explode and that armed clashes may occur, to maintain the lives of the Chinese, we allowed them to enter with their arms," said Ridha.

The Al-Ahdab was the first major oilfield development contract awarded by the Iraqi government after the US-led invasion in 2003. A CNPC official said the raid will not impact the company's work.

"We can't say we're not annoyed by this action. But we still consider it a domestic issue and we're confident the oil ministry will solve this problem. We are watching closely and we do not expect any effect on our work in the field," he added.

It is believed that Wasit council has formed a committee to investigate the contracts, worth $3 billion, to determine whether or not they had been signed without being tendered. Iraq's Oil Ministry has since issued a statement, saying all contracts between oil firms and the ministry were signed with the approval of the federal government and rebuked Wasit council for, "entering the site forcibly and using military force".

An Oil Ministry spokesman, Asim Jihad, said the ministry would file legal action against provincial council members who trespassed on the site.

Source: Upstream Online

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

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