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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Berates Iraq for LUKoil Snub


AP

Igor Ivanov

Moscow turned up the heat on Baghdad on Monday, with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov demanding that Iraq open talks to resolve a roiling dispute over a canceled contract with Russia's largest oil company.

During a visit to Manila, Ivanov said he had sent a message requesting that the Iraqi leadership reconsider its decision to break the 1997 contract with LUKoil and open negotiations, Interfax reported.

The negotiations should be aimed at finding "a mutually acceptable settlement of the situation, which does not damage the interests of the Russian company," Ivanov was quoted as saying. He said the message was "toughly worded."

Last week, LUKoil said it had received a letter signed by an Iraqi deputy oil minister that announced Iraq was breaking its contract with LUKoil to develop the West Qurna field.

Iraq's ambassador to Moscow, Abbas Khalaf, said Sunday that Baghdad had severed the multi-billion dollar contract because LUKoil had failed to start work at the West Qurna field.

He dismissed LUKoil's argument that it was hampered by the United Nations' sanctions on Iraq, saying other Russian companies had worked in Iraq, and said that only the contract with LUKoil had been canceled.

Iraq's relations with Russian oil companies have seemed to shift with Russia's actions in the UN Security Council, where it has been Baghdad's biggest supporter since the Gulf War, seeking to secure the removal of the sanctions.

LUKoil's vice president for production and the leading architect of the $3.7 billion Iraqi deal, Dzhevan Cheloyants, said Sunday that the move was "pure politics."

"The Iraqis are trying to raise a lot of noise because they are not happy with Russia's position on the UN Security Council," Cheloyants said.

Cheloyants also said Sunday that leading LUKoil executives met with U.S. senators just over a week ago to discuss the issue.

Khalaf on Sunday rejected allegations that the decision had anything to do with politics. He said he was aware of reports that LUKoil was talking to the United States in a bid to secure its interests in Iraq if Saddam Hussein is ousted, but refused to comment.

(AP, MT)