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Iraqi authorities have softened their attitude to Russia
Iraqi authorities have softened their attitude to Russia, which they earlier accused of unfriendly policy, and said they need Russian assistance in restoring the national economy. However the fate of the LUKOIL oil major’s contract to develop the rich West Qurna-2 oil field remains in question. “The Iraqi leadership works to develop perspective cooperation with Russia. Our people have a very warm attitude to your country. Iraq needs to restore economy, needs assistance. In this field it is impossible to ignore Russia with its capabilities, the history of relations with us,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview published by the Vremya Novostei daily on Tuesday. In September Iraqi President Jalal Talabani accused Russia of unfriendly policy saying it would strip Russian oil companies of profitable Iraqi contracts. "Russia is carrying out an unrealistic policy, which reflects an unfriendly vision of the situation in Iraq", Talabani said in an interview. He made it clear LUKOIL would hardly keep the lucrative West Qurna-2 contract, which it signed yet with Saddam Hussein. "LUKOIL agreed not with Iraq, but with Saddam Hussein. If Russia had a balanced and friendly policy towards new Iraq,.. then the oil company would have a good chance to come back and say: "Let's renew the contract", the president explained. Zebari, who visited Moscow this week, softened the stance saying former Moscow support to Saddam will hardly bar future cooperation. “I do not believe it will exert a negative influence on cooperation prospects,” he said. In Moscow Zebari said "energy, oil and gas, and industrial reconstructions are the most promising areas of the interaction”. However, it is still unclear whether LUKOIL will keep the West Qurna-2 contract. “There are disagreements in opinions,” Zebari told Vremya Novostei recalling the Saddam-era deal granted LUKOIL certain privileges. “Everything has to be revised. LUKOIL will get what the new (Iraqi) laws envisage”, the minister said adding the final decision was likely after the national parliament is elected on December 15 and forms a government for the upcoming four years. “The decision adopted by the future government will be more important than the decisions taken by previous transitional governments,” he said. Still Russian companies should re-start activities in Iraq right now without waiting for the situation to stabilize, according to Zebari. “To get a share in the Iraqi business one has to risk. The situation in Iraq is a challenge. But an element of risk exists in any business,” he said. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, 200 Russian specialists currently work in Iraq repairing power supply facilities. "Their number will increase as soon as the country's security situation makes it possible," he promised. "At this transition stage, it is important to support the Iraqi authorities' efforts to rebuild the country's infrastructure," Lavrov said. Zebari expressed hope "Russia, which has good relations with Syria and Iran, will help Iraq agree with them on matters of ensuring security in the country." "We appreciate Russia's role in the international community, specifically, Russia's support for the UN Security Council's resolution 1637 that extends the presence of the multinational forces in Iraq till the end of 2006," Zebari said.
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