Iraq and India signed an agreement to bolster trade ties, including in the oil sector, the two sides announced after a meeting of a joint Iraqi-Indian commission in Baghdad.
Indian Oil Minister Ram Naik, who presided over the meeting along with his Iraqi counterpart Amer Mohammed Rasheed, told the press that the Indian oil firm Oil Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) would soon open offices Baghdad.
Naik added "work was progressing" on an ONGC oil concession in southern Iraq.
For his part, Rasheed said the accord reached Sunday would boost trade between the two countries.
India's ONGC Videsh and Reliance Petroleum have signed an agreement with Algeria's Sonatarch to secure an oilfield in Iraq for production of crude.
ONGC Videsh Limited, a subsidiary of ONGC, has sought to form a venture with two other partners to produce crude from the Tuba oil field. ONGC is awaiting approval from its board to invest approximately $63 million in Iraq.
Rasheed, who was speaking after signing a trade and commerce agreement with Indian Petroleum Minister Ram Naik following two days of meetings of the Indo-Iraq joint commission, described India as a "strategic partner."
According to Rasheed, the volume of trade between Iraq and New Delhi under an "oil-for-food" deal with the United Nations had reached $1,53 billion.
At the last meeting of the commission in 2000, India agreed to help Iraq modernise its oil installations and India's ONGC signed a contract for an exploration block in Iraq, it said.
India, which imports more than two-thirds of the crude oil it requires for 17 refineries that process 2.3 million barrels per day, is seeking oil acreages abroad because domestic output has plateaued.
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