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Iraq pays Kurd oil contractors: regional premier

by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) May 6, 2011
Iraq has paid oil contractors in its autonomous Kurdistan region for the first time, the region's premier said in a statement released on Thursday, a significant step in an ongoing energy dispute.

The central government in Baghdad transferred a total of $243 million to contractors working in the Kurdish region, made up of three provinces in Iraq's north, the region's prime minister Barham Saleh said in the statement.

"This confirmation of payment to the KRG (Kurdistan regional government) for the region's contractors amounts to around 50 percent of net revenues derived from the export of over five million barrels of oil from the Kurdistan region between the start of February 2011 and March 27," he said.

The statement said the payment was made as part of an "interim agreement on revenue allocation" agreed between Saleh, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the national ministers of oil and finance.

The payment is the first made by Baghdad to oil companies working in Kurdistan. It had previously refused to pay amid a row with regional authorities in Arbil.

Kurdish leaders and the central government have squabbled over payments, revenue sharing and Baghdad's refusal to recognise the dozens of oil contracts Arbil has signed with international energy firms.

Iraq currently produces around 2.6 million barrels of oil per day, exporting about 2.1 million bpd, with revenues from crude sales accounting for 90 percent of government income.

Kurdish regional natural resources minister Ashti Hawrami said in the statement that the region is currently exporting around 135,000 bpd, and is projected to increase that to 200,000 bpd by year-end.

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