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Iraqi premier to discuss oil projects in Russia


MOSCOW/BAGHDAD, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Iraq's prime minister will visit Russia on April 9-11 to discuss oil and other projects with Russian companies in Iraq, the Russian government said on Wednesday.

The war-torn country, which has an estimated 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, is seeking foreign funds to rebuild its ageing oil infrastructure and increase production from the current 2.4 million barrels a day to 4.5 million by 2012.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, speaking on Iraqi television, said that while in Russia, premier Nouri al-Maliki would discuss the possibility of reactivating contracts signed with Russian companies under the Saddam Hussein regime, and "will invite Russia to invest in Iraq's oil industry and electric power sector."

Russia wrote off $12 billion, or 93%, of Iraq's debt to Russia in 2007, a move widely believed to be aimed at securing lucrative oil contracts.

Earlier reports said Iraq and Russia had set up a working group to address Saddam-era oil contracts, but that was still to hold its first session. Al-Maliki's visit is expected to speed up the process.

Russian oil firms, including LUKoil, which had a license to develop the giant West Qurna-2 oil field, have so far been invited take part in tenders for new oil fields.

Ali Dabbag said the premier would be accompanied by the foreign minister, defense minister, and electric power minister as well as an Oil Ministry delegation.

Al-Maliki will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and will be received by President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday.

The agenda of the Iraqi premier's visit also includes Iraq's domestic situation, and cooperation in addressing Persian Gulf and Middle East conflicts.

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