Over 100 Firms Vie for Iraqi Oil Fields

BAGHDAD -- More than 100 companies including foreign majors are vying for deals to tap Iraq's vast oil fields, but a vital oil law is stalled by tension involving the country's Kurdish region, the Iraqi oil minister said.

Hussain al-Shahristani said 115 companies had registered to compete for oil extraction and service contracts to help develop Iraq's oil reserves, the world's third largest.

Of these, 10 were American, with companies also from Japan, Russia, Britain, Canada and South Korea.

A ministry official had previously put the number of companies that registered by a Feb. 18 deadline at more than 70.

Shahristani said Iraq was close to finishing negotiations with several oil majors for two-year technical support contracts that hopefully would be signed in March.

Those majors included Royal Dutch Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Total and Chevron, he said.

Iraq currently exploits only a fraction of its reserves, among the cheapest to produce in the world, and international oil companies have been positioning for years to gain access.