New Kurdish oil deals strain ties with Baghdad

Baghdad _ Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region finalized a handful of new oil deals.  The Kurdistan Regional Government says it's approved four new production sharing contracts with international companies and had sanctioned the construction of two new refineries.

Kurdish officials said the four contracts are worth about 500 million dollars, while the new refineries are worth about 300 million dollars. If exploration leads to oil production, 85 percent of the profits would go to the government and the remainder would go to the companies.

Among the international oil companies to reach agreement with the Kurds is Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company.  That's further straining relations with Baghdad which wants to centralize control of the country's oil resources. A spokesman for Iraq's oil ministry denounced the agreements, saying the government has "made it clear not to sign any contract until the new oil law is passed.''

New oil legislation in Iraq is among 18 benchmark laws pushed by the US Government to encourage reconciliation among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian factions.

(Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)