- Nov 22, 2003
- Reaction score
I know some want all doom and gloom, but this just isn't:
February 26, 2007
Iraqi Cabinet Approves Draft of Oil Law
By EDWARD WONG
BAGHDAD, Feb. 26 The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law today that would set guidelines for countrywide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the immense oil industry.
The endorsement marked a major agreement among the countrys ethnic and sectarian political blocs on one of Iraqs most divisive issues.
The draft law approved by the cabinet allows the central government to distribute oil revenues to the provinces or regions by population, which could lessen the economic concerns of the rebellious Sunni Arabs, who fear being cut out of Iraqs vast potential oil wealth by the dominant Shiites and Kurds.
The law also grants regional oil companies the power to sign contracts with foreign companies for exploration and development of fields, opening the door for investment by foreign oil companies in a country whose oil reserves rank among the worlds top three in size.
Iraq has 80 known fields, 65 of which will be offered up for bids for development contracts once the draft law is approved by the Iraqi Parliament, said Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi oil minister. The 275-member Parliament is in recess but is expected to look at the draft once it reconvenes next month, Mr. Shahristani said. Ahead of todays cabinet vote, the main Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political blocs had agreed to work together to ensure that the law passes Parliament in an expeditious manner, he added.
Since last year, senior Bush administration officials and top American commanders here have said a new oil law is crucial to the countrys political and economic development, and they have been pressuring Iraqi leaders to make passage of the law a priority. In recent weeks, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the senior American envoy here, has been in intense talks with Kurdish leaders in the north to overcome their objections to the draft. Iraqi officials say Mr. Khalilzads negotiations were crucial to winning unanimous cabinet approval today.
Since the American-led invasion of 2003, Iraqi politics has often been split bitterly along ethnic and sectarian lines, and that kind of conflict could still stall passage of the oil law in Parliament. Drafts have been debated for months by a committee overseeing the writing of the law before the cabinet finally approved it.