February 05, 2008
LONDON -(Dow Jones)-
Iraqi oil officials and oil company executives were greeted by demonstrators in London Tuesday protesting long-term oil contracts being signed in Iraq, which they say are handing control of the country's oil wealth to private foreign enterprise.
Iraq Oil Minister Hussain Al-Shahristani, Ashti Hawrami, minister of natural resources for the Kurdistan Regional Government, and executives from companies like BP PLC (BP), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and others were among the attendees at a Middle East oil conference being held by London-based think tank, Chatham House.
About a dozen protesters with placards, some calling out "No to cheap Iraqi oil," stood outside the conference venue. One of the demonstrators, Greg Muttitt, co-founder of London-based oil industry watchdog Platform, said contracts known as production sharing agreements, or PSAs, were being struck in Iraq under pressure from Western governments, which benefit foreign companies at the expense of Iraqis.
"They give control of Iraq's oil to multinationals for 20-30 years. It's like giving my house to a decorator and renting a room back from him," Muttitt said.
Gabriel Carlyle, another proteter, said polls show that a large number of Iraqis are against such contracts and called the companies "war profiteers" working with western governments to exploit Iraq.
Muttitt said the Kurdistan Regional Government's recent signing of oil contracts with foreign companies a move that effectively hands the Iraqi Kurds' new-found autonomy over to foreign governments and oil companies. "What they're doing now is jumping out of a frying pan into the fire...taking their sovereignty and surrendering it," Muttitt said.
The demonstrators said they were not against Iraq seeking technical expertise anf financing from foreign oil companies in order to rebuild the war-torn industry but opposed the exploitative deals they said were being struck.
-By Natalie Obiko Pearson and Lananh Nguyen, Dow Jones Newswires email@example.com.