World Bulletin / News Desk
Exxon Mobil has asked Iraq's prime minister if it can keep running a huge southern oilfield despite disagreements over rival contracts signed with the country's autonomous Kurdistan region, the government said on Monday.
The face-to-face talks between Shi'ite premier Nuri al-Maliki and Exxon's top executive in Baghdad come as the U.S. major offers to sell its stake in the West Qurna-1 oilfield in the south after clashing with Baghdad over its deals with the self-ruled Kurdish enclave in the north.
Iraq has been clear it considers deals oil companies like Exxon sign with the Kurdish enclave illegal. But the meeting may suggest Exxon is testing its room to balance investments with OPEC-member's central government and those with the self-governed Kurdistan region.
"Exxon Mobil asked to meet with the prime minister to know his opinion on the company's contracts in the south and in the northern region and if there was a possibility to keep working on both contracts," Maliki's media adviser Ali al-Moussawi said after the meeting.
"The prime minister's answer was clear to the head of Exxon that they can't keep operating on both deals at the same time and they should observe Iraq's laws."
A statement from the government said only that Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson had "expressed his company's keenness to continue and expand its work in Iraq."
Iraqi officials had said late last year that China National Petroleum Corp, or CNPC, had emerged as the favourite in negotiations to take over Exxon's 60 percent stake in the $50 billion the West Qurna-1 project.
Iraq's Arab-led central government and Kurdistan Regional Government run by ethnic Kurds are caught in a dispute over control of oil revenues, oilfields and territory that is testing Iraq's federal union.
Iraq's government says it alone has the constitutional authority to export crude oil and sign deals, but Kurdistan says the constitution allows it to agree to contracts and ship oil independently of Baghdad.
Attempts to resolve the dispute have failed in part because of disagreements over a long-delayed oil and gas law meant to set a clearer framework for managing the country's vast oil reserves, the world's fourth largest.
Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, Venezuela, Belize, Cuba, Cyprus, Greece, Jamaica and Ukraine are all on the verge of a default, according to Moody's ratings.
A World Trade Organisation pact to ease worldwide customs rules collapsed late on Thursday over India's demands for concessions on agricultural stockpiling.
India's new nationalist government has insisted that a permanent agreement on its subsidised food stockpiling must be in place at the same time as the trade facilitation deal
Chemicals firm LyondellBasell has emerged as the mystery American buyer of Kurdish crude oil this year, but said it will not be buying any more
Some EU member states remain nervous about the impact on their own fragile economies. The sanctions deal was agreed only after initial proposals were narrowed.
Bankers in Singapore say Russians looking for a new Cyprus have come to the wrong place.
The default could get much messier and take longer to clear up if creditors force an "acceleration" for early payment on their bonds.
The ban came a day after the European Union and United States imposed their first sanctions aimed at hitting broad sectors of the Russian economy
Russia called new U.S. sanctions "destructive and short-sighted"
While the default will obviously hurt the economy, it will not be as severe as in 2001, economists say
The Czechs, who supported the action, have been against sweeping sanctions, worried about trade relations with Russia
The trade program has been criticized for disproportionately benefiting certain industries and a handful of countries, including Nigeria, South Africa and Angola.
The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo.
The uncertainty comes at a bad time for the 18 countries in the euro zone, whose economy is already in the doldrums.
"Kalashnikov regrets that consumers are faced with such a problem," said spokeswoman Yekaterina Boni.
Cairo and Khartoum had earlier accepted a proposal by Addis Ababa to hold the talks in Sudan in the third week of August.