Iraq oil meeting delayed
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
International oil companies are jockeying for position in a post-Saddam Iraq. Oil and Gas International, an industry publication, reports the U.S. State Department has delayed a planned meeting with Iraqi opposition leaders.
The trade paper said the session is to deal with how Iraqs oil and gas reserves will be carved up after Saddam is out of the way. The meeting has been delayed because, a State Department source said, all the participants arent available yet.
Saddam is expected to be out of business by early December, according to some observers, but that is not entirely clear because of unexpected opposition to the Bush war initiative, a growing global anti-war movement and possibly, a new strategy by the administration.
Its expected the control of Iraq will pass to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a group largely controlled by U.S. oil companies.
A State Department source indicated the Bush administration wants a working group of 12 to 20 people dealing with Iraqi oil and gas and able to form recommendations to the interim government on ways to restore oil production following a military attack.
The hope is thought to be to increase oil exports to help finance a possible U.S. military occupation government, a view that strengthens the idea that the core of the Bush policy on Iraq is to seize that countrys oil and install a puppet regime that will do the administrations bidding.
The plan is to include not only INC leaders like Ahmed Chalabi and Sharif Ali Bin al Hussein, but also defectors from Iraqs Ministry of Petroleum and some members of the U.S. Department of Energy.
One important topic the meeting is whether Iraq would continue to be a member of OPEC; or if it would become independent, produce as much oil as it liked, and ignore OPEC quotas.
An issue of critical importance to Russia, France and China is whether the new Iraqi regime will honor existing contracts between Hussein and foreign oil companies. That includes a $3.5 billion Russian pact to allow Russia to develop some of Iraqs oilfields.
That project, and many others, has been stalled by U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq.