China is welcome to explore oil resources in Iraq as a new law is
set to open its oilfields to international companies, the Iraqi
ambassador to China said yesterday.
"We encourage Chinese enterprises to join the multinational
competition for exploration of Iraqi oilfields," said Mohammad
The oil and gas law faces a parliamentary vote next month after
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki endorsed it in February and
the Cabinet approved it the following month.
If ratified, it will open the country's oil resources to foreign
companies; and a frozen Sino-Iraqi oil contract could be
reactivated, he said.
The 1997 deal to explore the Al-Ahdab field, worth US$1.2
billion, was signed by China National Petroleum Corp and Baghdad
when Saddam Hussein was in power.
Under the terms of the new law, all energy contracts signed by
foreign producers during the Saddam era must be renegotiated.
"The revival of the deal is in the process and the two sides
have established working groups to help the contract go forward,"
Ismail said Iraq's ambition is to exploit about 80 new oilfields
in the coming years and produce 6.5 million barrels of oil per day
It produced 2.6 million barrels a day before the 2003 US-led
invasion. Production is about 2 million barrels a day at
The ambassador made the remarks on the eve of Iraqi President
Jalal Talabani's week-long state visit to China starting
Talabani is scheduled to meet President Hu Jintao, top legislator Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao.
The two sides are expected to sign five agreements on foreign
affairs, the training of governmental officials and other
China is ready to substantially forgive debt owed by Iraq and
will provide additional reconstruction aid to the country, the
ambassador said without specifying the amounts.
He noted that a Sino-Iraqi joint committee, to be co-chaired by
the Iraqi Oil Ministry and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, will
resume discussions on such sectors as trade, foreign affairs,
science and technology. The joint committee held its first meeting
The upcoming visit by the Iraqi president will be the first by
an Iraqi head since the two countries set up diplomatic ties in
1958. Accompanied by five Cabinet members, the president and his
40-strong delegation will visit Beijing, Xi'an and Nanjing.
Touching on bilateral ties, the ambassador said the friendship
between China and Iraq dates back 2,000 years.
"There has never been any conflict between the two countries,"
On trade, he said "made-in-China products are common in Iraqi
households, especially toys," adding that the economies of the two
countries are highly complementary.
Ismail said he hopes two-way trade increases on the back of
US$1.1 billion last year.
Chinese analysts described Talabani's visit as a "landmark."
Yin Gang, a researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
said the visit shows that cooperation in various fields is
returning to normal.
He said Talabani, who is interested in the works of Mao Zedong,
has been to China before and has great affection for the
(China Daily June 19, 2007)