BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq’s state oil planners need wider powers to make deals with foreign companies to boost production, the country’s oil minister urged Sunday.

Hussain al-Shahristani’s proposals were part of a package of reforms seeking to counter the blow of falling oil prices, which have forced authorities to trim Iraq’s annual proposed budget and shrink plans for reconstruction projects.

“Unleash the chains around the (state-owned) oil companies and give them broader authorities to help implement their programs,” al-Shahristani told reporters after a three-day conference to discuss Iraq’s oil policy.

Iraq, which holds the world’s third-largest known oil reserves, is suffering a financial squeeze as oil prices plummeted to about $45 per barrel from a summertime high of about $150. Iraq depends on oil revenues for nearly 95 percent of its budget.

Al-Shahristani said the government is working on reviving the Iraqi National Oil Co. and establishing an oil and gas council to oversee investments and planning.

He called for separating his proposals from the overall effort to pass an oil law governing how to divide revenues and regulate foreign investment. The legislation has been bogged down by political feuds for more than two years.

Al-Shahristani’s appeal suggested that the long-awaited national oil law will not be approved soon.

Iraq produces about 2.4 million barrels per day while exports average around 1.9 million barrels per day. The Ministry is hoping to sharply boost production in coming years.

Iraq recently offered 19 oil and gas fields to international companies for development in two major bidding rounds.

Iraqi deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, warned that any delay in reforms to the oil industry “will have disastrous consequences.”

“Time is against us, and we already wasted time,” Saleh said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.