Source AP ©

Iraqi FM interested in Russian companies rebuilding power plants in Iraq

Iraqi Foreign Minister expressed interest in Russian companies rebuilding power plants in Iraq, but said nothing concrete of the Russian bid to tap the country's giant West Qurna oil field.

Hoyshan Zebari said after meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that an intergovernmental commission was to meet soon to discuss specifics of Russian companies' activities in Iraq, including prospects of Russian oil giant JSC Lukoil's exploring the West Qurna.

Lavrov said that Lukoil hopes to tap West Qurna as part of a consortium with ConocoPhillips. The U.S. oil giant holds a 20-percent stake in Lukoil, and analysts have said it could help the Russian company return to developing the oil field.

"The Iraqi market is open for competition of companies from all countries, and we have no special attitude for or against Russian companies," Zebari told reporters after the talks.

Russia, which developed close ties with Iraq under Saddam Hussein's regime and strongly opposed the U.S.-led war, has remained largely aloof from the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

Lukoil's 1997 contract to drill at the West Qurna field, which has an estimated reserve capacity of 4 billion barrels, has been hamstrung under the new authorities in Iraq.

The Iraqi parliament is expected to pass a new law that will review previous oil contracts and open the way to a wave of tenders to tap Iraq's enormous oil wealth.

Zebari said the Iraqi government encourages participation of Russian companies in rebuilding and maintaining Russian-built power plants in Iraq.

Lavrov said Russian companies were concerned about instability in Iraq, and that Moscow expected the Iraqi authorities to help provide security.

"I'm convinced that the Iraqi government's efforts to advance the national reconciliation and improve the security situation would help create more favorable conditions for broad trade and economic cooperation," Lavrov said.