mardi 29 janvier 2008

Iraq keeps word, punishes Korea for oil contracts in Kurdish region

The New Anatolian / Ankara
29 January 2008

The Oil Ministry in Baghdad announced Tuesday it has halted oil exports to South Korea in protest over an illegal deal between Korean firms and the Kurdish regional government. Iraq last month warned South Korea to scrap the oil contracts with the Kurdish Regional Government or face a ban on oil,exports.

According to the Oil Ministry, Iraq suspended an annual contract with South Korea's top refiner SK Energy on January 1 to export 90,000 barrels per day. Iraq has given SK Energy until Jan. 31 to back out of the Kurdistan deal if it wants exports to resume.

Baghdad has warned other customers that they must cancel deals with the Kurdish region. A consortium of South Korean firms including SK Energy signed a deal in November with the Kurdish government to explore the Bazian field, which is estimated to hold 500 million barrels of crude oil. Iraq has demanded that the consortium led by state-run Korea National Oil Corp cancel the exploration project. The corporation has refused to abandon the deal.

Iraq has been at odds with regional governments over control of new exploration areas.

The dispute has not badly hit supplies because Iraq accounted for less then three percent of total crude imports last year, the Korean Energy Ministry said. The shortage was covered by purchases on the spot market, he said.

Seoul has about 600 troops stationed in the Kurdish region for reconstruction projects. Parliament voted in late December to keep them there for one more year.The extension was South Korea's fourth since 3,000 troops were deployed with a one-year mandate in 2004 at the request of the US government.

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