War on Iraq

Kurdish Official: Iraqi Oil Deals "Illegal"

The rush to sign oil contracts with foreign companies is "anachronistic" and happening in a legal vacuum, argues Mahmoud Othman.
The oil deals the Kurdish regional government and the central government in Baghdad are signing are illegal, according to a top Kurdish politician and legislator.

Mahmoud Othman, the head of the powerful Kurdish bloc in Iraqi parliament, described the signing of these deals as "a premature and out-of-lace move" in the absence of a national law organizing the exploitation of the country's oil riches.

The Kurds have signed about two dozen deals and the central government has agreed to let foreign oil giants to boost output from producing fields and is also mulling signing oil development contracts.

"The rush towards signing the contracts is anachronistic. So long as the draft oil and gas law remains unsigned, these deals will lack the constitutional basis to kick them off the ground," Othman said.

Othman is the first senior Kurdish officials to criticize the oil development deals the Kurdish regional government has signed.

Othman's opinion counts because he is seen by many across the country, particularly in Iraq's Kurdish enclave in the north, as a veteran politician whose stance Kurdish political leaders may not afford to ignore.

Othman warned that the sides' appetite to proceed ahead with the singing of oil deals in the absence of constitutional backing would backfire.

Under these circumstances, he said, conditions "will reach a point at which everyone will become motionless. A situation like this will not be in the country's interests."

He advised both the Kurdish regional government in Arbil and the central government in Baghdad to "wait until the draft oil and gas law is approved."

The law has stalled at the parliament mainly due to objections from Kurdish legislators.

Othman said it was time the country's Supreme Court looked into the matter, as Iraq's politicians are apparently unable to reach some sort of agreement on the draft law.

It is not clear why Othman made the remarks at a time he was a strong supporter of the deals the Kurds have signed.

Analysts say many Kurds have discovered that the deals they have signed with foreign firms are not "fair."

They say foreigners will reap most of the benefits as they are given "wide concessions" and large tax benefits.

The analysts also charge that almost all the Kurdish deals have been signed without the proper betting procedures.
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