Kurdistan Officials Hopeful For Post-Election Oil Law In Iraq

by  Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A delegation of top officials from Kurdistan said Tuesday that they're hopeful Iraq can finally pass a federal hydrocarbon law after January's national election.

In the U.S. to drum up investment interest for the Kurdish region, the officials expressed optimism that Iraq's next government will be more friendly to investors.

"The majors will come when there is a strategic national policy that is conducive to investment," said Qubad Talabani, the Kurdistan Regional Government's representative to the U.S., referring to the large oil companies that have so far resisted investing in the area.

The KRG and Baghdad are involved in a spat over oil produced in the semiautonomous region. Kurdistan recently stopped oil exports after Iraq's central government denied payments to the two companies extracting oil from fields in Kurdistan - Norway's DNO International ASA (DNO.OS) and Turkey's Genel Energy. Baghdad opposes the oil deals Kurdistan has struck on its own.

The dispute highlights the challenge of attracting foreign investment to Iraq, and the significance of sealing a national oil law to clarify how revenue is shared among the country's regions. Currently, 17% of the proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil go back to Kurdistan.

Iraq's national parliamentary elections are scheduled for January.

The Kurdish delegation was in Washington for a two-day conference last week on boosting economic ties between the U.S. and Iraq.

Herish Muharam, chairman of the Kurdistan Investment Board, characterized the conference as a success, saying the group met with businesses interested in investing in the region's agriculture, tourism, education and industrial sectors.

But Muharam acknowledged that "the work forward is much more difficult and more challenging."

-By Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9256; henry.pulizzi@dowjones.com