Russia’s Zarubezhneft oil company yesterday signed a US$1 million deal to supply Iraq with drilling equipment for its now decrepit oil sector. The deal was the first to follow a UN Security Council resolution of last week that allows Baghdad to purchase US$300 million worth of equipment to repair its oil producing facilities. Russia will supply the equipment to Iraq’s state-owned SOMO company. (AP, Russian agencies, June 24)
Yesterday’s deal is the latest payoff by Iraq to Russia for Moscow’s diplomatic efforts on behalf of Baghdad. Russian oil companies have likewise been among the leading participants in the UN-Iraqi “oil for food” program which allows Iraq to export limited amounts of oil to purchase goods urgently needed by the country’s population. On June 16-18, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk was in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi leaders aimed at increasing still further Iraqi-Russian cooperation in this area. (Russian agencies, June 22)
Yesterday’s Zarubezhneft deal comes against a background of worsening tensions between Iraq and the United Nations. Chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler has informed Security Council members of evidence that Iraq may have constructed nerve gas weapons–something that Baghdad has heretofore denied. Iraqi authorities have called the charge a lie engineered by the United States. Yesterday, Baghdad issued a statement threatening unspecified actions against UN weapons inspectors. These latest developments could undermine diplomatic efforts led by Russia to ease sanctions on Iraq. (AP, June 24)
GOVERNMENT SENDS SIX BILLS TO DUMA.