Iraq vows to purge politics from oil trade

BAGHDAD - The new chief of Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) said yesterday he hoped to banish politics from the country's export programme, and restore direct oil sales to the United States.


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Published: Thu 22 May 2003, 12:41 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 9:19 PM

That spells good news for US and British oil multinationals who - blacklisted by Saddam six years ago - have been forced to buy Iraqi crude through middlemen.

"It is our intention to go back to our pre-1990 policy when we could do business in a professional, rather than a political, way," Mohammed Al Jibury told Reuters after his colleagues elected him as the new head of Iraq's oil export company.

The SOMO vote, tallied on a white board in the company auditorium, comes under a US-sponsored campaign of elections to reduce the influence of Saddam's Baath Party in government.

"We will definitely not go to the extremes of the past where we sold a lot of our oil through intermediaries," Jibury said. Before his overthrow, Saddam ordered oil officials to seek illicit kickbacks on crude sales of some two million barrels a day, and trade with many obscure trading outfits. Those tactics led those European companies not already blacklisted by Saddam to drop their direct deals with Baghdad and resort to middlemen. "Logically we will start now with end-users and refiners, and see how that policy will go," Jibury said. Jibury, who worked in SOMO's marketing department before his promotion, will replace Ali Hassan. With oil and foreign policies as one under Saddam, Iraq doled out a large chunk of crude oil export contracts to Russian companies. But it was US refiners, via small trading houses, who snapped up the Iraqi barrels, consuming some one million bpd at one stage last year.

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