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Iraq's Kurds halt oil exports in payment row

02 april 2012, 14:34
0
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani . ©AFP
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani . ©AFP
Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has halted its exports of oil, it said on Sunday, claiming that the central government has withheld payment to oil companies working in the region for 10 months, AFP reports.

"After consultation with the producing companies, the ministry (of natural resources) has reluctantly decided to halt exports until further notice," the Kurdistan regional government said in a statement on its website.

"There have been no payments for 10 months, nor any indication from federal authorities that payments are forthcoming."

It continued: "We hope that this is a temporary measure and that those in the federal government responsible for non-payment will quickly realise that their failure to adhere to their agreements is not in the interests of the Iraqi people."

The statement said exports would be diverted to the local market for processing and refining.

The move came following threats by the region last week to stop exports because Baghdad had not paid companies working in Kurdistan since May 2011. Kurdish authorities say nearly $1.5 billion has been withheld.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs, Hussein al-Shahristani, warned earlier on Sunday that Kurdistan should think twice before cutting off exports and instead aim to increase production.

"I would advise them, before they make any threat, to consider how much oil (revenue) they are getting from other parts of the country, which is much more than the oil that is being produced there," he said in an interview in English with AFP in his office in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

Baghdad and Arbil have squabbled over payments, revenue-sharing and the central government's refusal to recognise deals Kurdish officials have signed with foreign energy firms.

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