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CAIRO Dec 22 Egypt's Petroleum Minister Tarek
El Molla said on Thursday his country was seeking to reach an
agreement with Iraq over importing crude oil directly and that
he hoped to finalise the deal by the first quarter of 2017.
El Molla told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the
Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) that
Egypt aims to import between 1 million and 2 million barrels per
month from Iraq.
The move follows Saudi Arabia informing Egypt in last month
that shipments of oil products expected under a $23 billion aid
deal had been halted indefinitely.
"We are seeking to directly import crude oil from Iraq. We
already use Iraqi oil but we get it from international markets
but we hope to have a direct government to government
agreement," El Molla said.
Egypt has gone from exporting energy to being a net energy
importer as domestic output has failed to keep pace with rising
demand. The government is seeking alternative solutions to help
the country cope.
Gulf Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have pumped
billions of dollars into Egypt's flagging economy since
general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took over after a
year of divisive rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.
But Riyadh has become frustrated with his lack of economic
reforms and reluctance to be drawn into the conflict in Yemen,
leaving Egypt to search for alternative sources of energy.
(Reporting by Amina Ismail; writing by Ahmed Aboulenein;
editing by David Clarke and David Evans)