UN urges Iraq to pass oil and gas law

Published Monday, August 13, 2012

Passing a much-delayed oil and gas law in the Iraqi parliament is a top priority, and the UN has put together an internal taskforce to tackle the issue, special envoy Martin Kobler told AFP on Monday.

The law, which would regulate Iraq's lucrative oil sector, and rules on revenue-sharing between the central government and Iraq's provinces have for years languished in parliament.

"There is an internal UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) taskforce on this issue," Kobler said, acknowledging: "It will take some time to develop expertise.

"We want to start with a discussion on the revenue-sharing, and then the oil and gas law. The oil and gas law is a good entry point to tackle some major issues -- the Arab-Kurd issue, the issue of federalism. I would say it is the key. It gives you a foundation.

"And also, this country needs investment security. The solution to the DIBs (disputed internal boundaries), where some of the major unexploited oilfields are located, is a lot easier if everyone knows how the revenue will be shared," he added.

Diplomats and analysts persistently point to a wide-ranging row between Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and the central government over a swathe of disputed territory, the sharing of revenues, and the apportioning of powers, as one of the biggest threats to the country's long-term stability.

Kobler listed his two other priorities as the selection of a new electoral commission to organize provincial elections planned for next year, and the creation of an upper chamber of parliament, known as the federation council, which is referred to in Iraq's constitution but has not yet been implemented.

Iraq has proven reserves of 143.1 billion barrels of oil and 3.2 trillion cubic meters of gas, both of which are among the largest in the world.

The country currently produces 3.2 million barrels per day of oil, with resulting exports accounting for the lion's share of government income. Baghdad aims to increase both figures dramatically.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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