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Iraqi Kurdish oil exports could rise by more than 50 percent next year after the autonomous region reached a deal with central government to put an end to a payments dispute, Kurdistan’s energy minister said on Tuesday.

Ashti Hawrami also said last week’s deal was a big breakthrough that could pave the way towards resolution of Iraq’s long stalled oil and gas law by the end of 2012 or early 2013 in a move to help unlock huge reserves potential.

“If we are sincere, I think this can be done,” he said. “We need stability within to have stability of supply.”

He said Kurdistan could ramp up oil exports to 250,000 barrels per day or even more next year from the current 140,000 bpd. Iraq’s overall oil output has risen to above 3 million bpd and overtaken Iran in recent month, making it OPEC’s second largest producer.

In April, Kurdistan halted exports of its oil in protest over what it said were payments due from Baghdad to companies.

It restarted in August and last week said it would keep its oil production for export at 140,000 barrels per day this month before raising it to 200,000 bpd for the rest of this year.

“We will do our best to do more in the 2013 budget – 250,000 bpd or more might be the case,” he said.

Baghdad has agreed to release close to $900 million to pay contractors in Kurdistan. Payments are likely to come in 2 tranches, the first being $650 million, he said.

The deal will resolve only part of a broader feud between Baghdad and Kurdistan over oil and territory that has involved major companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total.

Hawrami said discussions in Baghdad last week to end the oil export and payments row were “very constructive and positive”.

Both sides had grown tired of the internal politics and were keen for a resolution, he said adding that most senior government officials in Baghdad attended talks.

“Even (Prime Minister Nuri al-) Maliki himself was supportive (of the final agreement),” he said.

Hawrami said a high level committee – including Iraq’s oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi and himself – has been set up to revisit Iraq’s long-stalled oil and gas law.

Source: Reuters


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