Iraq: Exxon Pulls Out, Russia Wants In

From UPI

BAGHDAD, Nov. 9 (UPI) — Iraq’s strategic effort to become the world’s leading oil producer has taken some bad knocks, with the defection of Exxon Mobil and other majors to independence-minded Kurdistan, and Wednesday’s expulsion of Turkey’s state oil outfit from an exploration deal.

But Russia seems more than ready to step in and fill the gap in foreign investment that Baghdad needs to rebuild and expand its oil and gas industry on which the country’s future depends.

China, eager to add Iraq’s oil to its ever-widening network of resource acquisitions in Africa and the Middle East, is also knocking on Baghdad’s door to take over production deals awarded largely to Western majors in 2009-10.

Russia signed a landmark $4.2 billion arms deal with Baghdad in October during a visit to Moscow by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, driving to restore Moscow’s influence in a region where the Soviet Union once held immense sway, pressed Maliki to allow greater Russian energy investment in Iraq.

Moscow media report Baghdad is considered inviting Russia’s Lukoil and Gazprom Neft to take over Exxon Mobil’s majority stake in the giant West Qurna 1 field in the south.

The U.S. company effectively relinquished its stake there when it signed up with the semiautonomous Kurds in October 2011 in a direct challenge to Baghdad’s authority.

The Oil Ministry disclosed Wednesday that Exxon has informed the central government it wants to quit the $50 billion West Qurna 1 project in the south and sell its majority stake.

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