Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum accepted an invitation from Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov to visit Russia "to discuss issues of mutual cooperation." According to information disseminated on Wednesday by Iraqi newspaper quoting an Iraqi Oil Ministry official, the minister might carry out the visit "in the near future." Before the recent war, Russian companies had a share of about 40 percent of Iraqi oil sold on international markets. Driven by political reasons, Baghdad had been giving priority in the sphere of trade and economic cooperation to Russia.
Several Russian oil companies, such as LUKoil and Zarubezhneft had contracts to develop large oil deposites (with an overall estimated capacity of more than one billion tons) in Iraq.
At present, these companies have to work on the basis of fair competition with other international companies, sources in Iraq underline.
"New Iraqi policy in the sphere of oil exploration," one of the Iraqi officials stated, "is based on the principles of openness, transparency and cooperation with all countries." Meanwhile, he said, "the priority is given to countries that participate in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq." The Iraqi official also pointed out that an offer of cooperation in the sphere of professional training of Iraqi personnel, contained in the letter of invitation sent by the RF energy minister, "opens new perspectives." Sources in the RF Energy Ministry have confirmed that Mr. Yusupov indeed sent an invitation to the Iraqi oil minister to visit Moscow.
"Yesterday, as far as I know, our minister sent a letter to the Iraqi oil minister," said an official from the RF energy ministry in an interview with RIA Novosti correspondent. "We haven't received an official response from Iraqi side. However, the fact that the information has been disseminated by Iraqi mass media shows that Iraqi side is seriously considering our invitation, and we see it as a positive sign."