BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s oil minister said on Sunday a group of companies led by Japan’s Nippon Oil Corp was “stalling” in talks to develop the Nassiriya oilfield and that a deal had to be done by January 24 or Iraq would go it alone.
“Regrettably the group of companies has been stalling the negotiations. We will have a final decisive round of talks on the 24th of this month,” the minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, told reporters.
“Either we reach an agreement or we will start the work of developing the Nassiriya field ourselves and we are capable of doing that.”
Talks between Iraq and Nippon Oil and its partners, oil explorer Inpex Corp and plant engineering firm JGC Corp, have dragged on for many months.
In the meantime, Iraq has agreed 10 other deals with global oil firms in two rounds of contract auctions that could turn it into the world’s third-biggest oil producer in less than a decade.
Shahristani said the Japanese companies had “a problem in the mechanism they submitted for financing the deal.” He did not provide details.
Iraqi officials have previously said the Japanese firms were pushing for a longer-term deal to buy Iraqi oil at quantities set by the firms as a condition for signing the Nassiriya contract. Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization usually allocates quantities to buyers every six months.
Shahristani said that Iraq was already starting work on setting up a separate state-run oil company for Dhi Qar province. The company would manage the Nassiriya oilfield development on behalf of the Oil Ministry whether it ended up working with the Nippon-led group or on its own.