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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rodionov Touts Deal For Iraq Oil

Russia has conceded that it missed its chance to be the top dog in Caspian oil projects but said it has ambitions in the Persian Gulf after signing giant deals with Iraq.

Fuel and Energy Minister Pyotr Rodionov said Iraq, with which Russia signed two oil deals last week, was a natural choice because Moscow had missed the investment chances in its own backyard.

"We, of course, missed our chances in the Caspian, a lot of chances," he told a news conference Tuesday. He was referring to a host of multibillion-dollar oil deals in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, where Russian companies play a minor role to the leading parts of the world's oil majors.

"We're ready to look at any projects in Iraq that are commercially viable and open," he said.

Russia and Iraq signed last Friday a 23-year deal to develop 7 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil reserves in southern Iraq's Qurana oil field once sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait are lifted.

Iraqi officials said earlier that the deal would give Baghdad $70 billion in revenue -- more than enough for Baghdad to repay Moscow $7 billion in Soviet-era debt.

Officials stressed that none of the deals would violate the UN sanctions, which place a blanket ban on investments, and that only preliminary feasibility and financing work would begin now.

"At this stage, we will only do serous preparatory work," Rodionov said. "We estimate that it will take a bit of time. None of this is against the UN sanctions, which we are observing and will observe."

Officials said Qurana envisaged the first stage capital expenditure of $4 billion and daily output of 660,000 barrels.

Russian oil companies already buy about one quarter of Iraq's limited oil exports under the UN's $2 billion oil-for-food programs.

Rodionov said he was eyeing more Iraqi oil deals and advised Russian oil independent Tatneft to pool its brains and finances with other firms to get in on the gulf act.