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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alfa-Eko Seals Huge Iraq Deal

LONDON -- Alfa-Eko, a subsidiary of Alfa Bank, one of Russia's largest private banks, has sealed one of the largest Iraqi oil supply deals in the history of the oil-for-food program, even as major Western oil firms resume ties with Baghdad, industry sources said Thursday.

Alfa-Eko has been a regular buyer of Iraqi oil but this week clinched a deal for 20 million barrels, which sources said was one of the largest in the six-year program's history.

Alfa-Eko officials were not immediately available for comment.

Russian companies have played a major role in the humanitarian program and seem to be continuing that trend even after major European companies resume direct purchases after a nearly two-year absence from the list of Iraqi buyers.

Baghdad is more eager than ever to strengthen ties with Moscow, one of its top allies on the UN Security Council, as the United Nations deliberates a new resolution governing the return of weapons inspectors, analysts say.

With the United States trying to drum up support for removing President Saddam Hussein, by force if necessary, Iraq has moved in the past few months to re-establish commercial ties with their former Western customers instead of the little-known companies that have dominated the trade for two years.