The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iraqi oilfield may slip out of India’s hands

New Delhi, Aug. 4: With the US now calling the shots, Iraqi authorities appear to be reluctant to hand over the lucrative Tuba oilfield to India.

Negotiations for the oilfield in southern Iraq had been completed during the Saddam Hussein reign and the deal merely had to be signed when war clouds started gathering over Iraq.

India appears to be losing out by the proverbial whisker for the rich oilfield in southern Iraq with the control of the country passing into US hands.

Senior petroleum ministry officials told The Telegraph that the Iraqi authorities have said that since the deal was not finalised, it would be difficult to go ahead with it as the government has changed. Iraq has taken the stand that if the Indian case was pushed through several other such cases would also have to be dealt with in the same manner.

However, India is likely to get oil exploration Block 8 in the western Iraq desert for which the production sharing contract was formally ratified by the Iraqi parliament (Majlis).

A team of ONGC-Videsh officials, who have a good rapport with Iraqi oil officials, has been in and out of Baghdad in recent weeks in order to see that the Indian case comes through. The agreement allowing ONGC-Videsh to undertake oil exploration in the block was formally signed by the two countries after protracted negotiations stretching over several months.

ONGC-Videsh in partnership with Reliance Industries and Sonatrach of Argentina had gone through several rounds of negotiations with the Iraqi government for a stake in the Tuba oilfield and the deal was in the “final stage” of being clinched.

India considered this different from several other contracts that were in the nascent stages and which were more likely to be cancelled. Besides, the Russians are interested in much bigger fields.

The Russian and Chinese oil companies were in the early stages of negotiations for some oilfields in Iraq. These are reported to have been cancelled.

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