An Iraqi Oil Ministry official was quoted on April 14 as saying that a Russian-Iraqi contract for the development of a major oil field in southern Iraq could earn Baghdad more than $80 billion over the 23-year term of the contract. Iraq’s parliament ratified the agreement over the weekend, and an Iraqi Oil Ministry official said that initial production at the West Qurna field could begin soon. The two countries had initialed the Qurna agreement last month, and London’s Financial Times has described the deal as the "most detailed agreement yet to emerge between Iraq and foreign companies keen to gain access to the world’s second largest oil reserves." Russia has said it will not implement the deal until UN sanctions on Iraq are lifted, but the British newspaper quotes a Western diplomat as suggesting that a "gray area" could allow Moscow to proceed immediately with some investment in Russian-owned facilities in Iraq. It also reports that Western diplomats believe the deal could potentially undermine the 7-year-old sanctions against Iraq. (AP, UPI, April 15)
Incidents on Armenian-Azerbaijani Front Reported.