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Iraq’s Kurdistan insists Exxon oil deal is constitutional

The prime minister of north Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region insisted on Thursday that an oil deal the region signed with ExxonMobil against Baghdad's wishes is constitutional.

“The contract that we signed with ExxonMobil is a complete and constitutional contract, and is not against the constitution,” Barham Saleh told reporters at an opening ceremony for a mall in Sulaimaniyah.

“We have different points of view with the officials in Baghdad on a number of issues, but it does not mean that we are acting against the Iraqi constitution,” he said.

“If they think that we will abandon our constitutional right to deal with our natural resources, they will be wrong.”

Baghdad regards any contracts not signed with the central government as invalid.

Kurdistan on October 18 inked the deal with ExxonMobil for it to explore six areas, according to Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan’s minister of natural resources.

But an official with the Iraqi oil ministry said that two of those areas - Al-Qosh and Bardarash - are actually parts of Nineveh province that Kurdistan wants to annex into its autonomous region, a move Baghdad opposes.

The Kurdistan contract potentially puts an Exxon contract with the Iraqi government in jeopardy.

In January 2010, Iraq’s oil ministry completed the deal with ExxonMobil and Anglo-Dutch giant Shell to develop production at West Qurna-1, which with reserves of about 8.5 billion barrels is the country’s second-biggest field.