Monday, May 11, 2009

Iraqi Leaders and Kurds Reach Oil Deal; Pelosi Makes Surprise Visit

New York Times By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS BAGHDAD — Ending months of political stalemate, the Iraqi Oil Ministry and the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq reached an accord Sunday that would allow the Kurds to export oil for the first time. The deal, announced on the Kurdistan government’s Web site, could be a significant political breakthrough because control over Iraqi oil production has been a major irritant between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds, who enjoy a large degree of autonomy and sit atop some of the country’s richest oil reserves. Under the terms, the Kurds can begin exporting about 60,000 barrels of oil a day from the Tawke field starting on June 1, and an additional 40,000 barrels a day from a second field, Taq-Taq, later in the month. The oil will be marketed by the central government and all revenue will go to Baghdad, said Asim Jihad, chief spokesman of the Oil Ministry. Iraq’s central government had long insisted that it alone had control over Iraqi oil, and had refused to recognize any oil contract signed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. It remained unclear on Sunday why Baghdad had softened its position or how the Kurds might benefit. The oil news came as Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, made a surprise here. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said in a statement that he had emphasized cooperation in economic and scientific fields in his meeting with Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California and a staunch critic of the war. Ms. Pelosi said the United States would work on sharing intelligence with Iraqi authorities to maintain security as American combat troops withdraw. Also on Sunday, the police in Amara arrested Sabah al-Sudani, a brother of Trade Minister Falah al-Sudani, said Sabah al-Saedi, the head of Parliament’s integrity committee. Sabah al-Sudani was wanted along with seven others, including another of the trade minister’s brothers, in an investigation into kickbacks and fraud, Mr. Saedi said.

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