* Exports from Tawke field to start June 1 - regional govt
* Kurdish deputy PM: no export without Baghdad agreement
* Baghdad says there is no deal with Kurds to export
(Adds Kurdish deputy PM, lawmaker, edits)
By Waleed Ibrahim
BAGHDAD, May 8 Iraq's largely autonomous
Kurdish region said on Friday it would start exporting oil next
month, but the Oil Ministry in Baghdad cast doubt on the plan,
denying it had given them permission to use national
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) heralded the start
on June 1 of oil exports from the Tawke field, saying they
would start at an initial rate of 60,000 barrels per day
Shares in DNO International (DNO.OL), the Oslo-listed firm
developing Tawke, surged on the news, up more than 18 percent
on the day.
Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami also said that
40,000 bpd of exports from another field, Taq Taq, would begin,
travelling by truck and through an Iraq-Turkey export
But the Iraqi Oil Ministry in Baghdad denied that the
central government, which has long refused Kurdistan permission
to export via the national pipeline, had agreed to this.
"So far no deal has been concluded between the two
parties," ministry spokesman Asim Jihad told Reuters, but he
declined to say whether such a deal could be reached by June.
Other officials in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling
Shi'ite Arab-led government could not be reached for comment.
"The government of Kurdistan will not export the oil
without the approval of the government of Iraq," Kurdistan
Deputy Prime Minister Imad Ahmed told Reuters, casting doubt on
The long-running feud over oil is part of a larger dispute
between Maliki's government and Iraq's Kurds, one that has held
up national energy legislation and cast a shadow over a country
struggling to emerge from six years of sectarian bloodshed.
LOOMING KURD-ARAB FEUD
Hawrami said Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation
(SOMO), controlled by the Oil Ministry, would handle the oil
"The exported crude oil from both fields will be marketed
by (SOMO) and the revenue will be deposited to the federal Iraq
account for the benefit of all Iraqi people," Hawrami said.
That was news to Falah Alamri, who heads SOMO.
"So far we are not aware of anything like this. Normally we
receive instructions about such things from the oil minister,
but we haven't gotten anything from him," he told Reuters.
Samuel Ciszuk, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in London,
said the announcement could be an attempt to increase pressure
on the Oil Ministry from its many critics in parliament, so
that it moves more quickly to boost oil production.
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani is seeking
long-term contracts with the world's largest oil firms, which
he hopes will help Iraq double daily output from around 2.3-2.4
million bpd now. But he has been criticised for not moving more
quickly to raise production with shorter term deals.
"The Kurds ... are basically saying: 'there is crude to be
exported if you allow us to do that'," Ciszuk said. "The
audience is Iraqi parliament and ... by making this fight overt
they are trying to foment support in parliament and (from) all
who are critical of Shahristani and his oil policies."
Iraq has the world's third largest oil reserves, but it
desperately needs investment to boost output and repair
infrastructure damaged by decades of sanctions, war and
The country, which relies on oil imports for more than 95
percent of its state revenues, needs exports more than ever as
it faces a budget crisis due to the plunge in oil prices.
Baghdad's pipeline position has meant oil from Kurdistan,
largely independent since 1991, has gone only to supply a small
Kurdish market. Small amounts have been smuggled abroad.
Kurdish officials, who estimate reserves of at least 40-45
billion barrels in the area now recognised as Kurdistan, have
also struck deals with other firms including Addax Petroleum.
Those contracts are deemed illegal by the Oil Ministry.
"Everything is in deadlock," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish
lawmaker from Baghdad's parliament. "I blame both sides, but
more the central government because the ball is in their court.
They should take initiative. They don't seem to be in a
British oil explorer Heritage Oil said on Wednesday it had
found up to 4.2 billion barrels of oil in Kurdistan. Ciszuck
said that may have emboldened the KRG.
Growing Kurd-Arab tensions raise fears that the divide over
energy resources could feed renewed conflict even as the
violence unleashed by the 2003 invasion subsides.
Arabs reject Kurdish ambitions to absorb the oil-rich
region of Kirkuk, home to Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, into
(Additional reporting Tim Cocks and Muhanad Mohammed in
Baghdad, Sherko Raouf in Sulaimaniya and Alex Lawler in London;
Writing by Missy Ryan and Tim Cocks; editing by Jim Marshall)