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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kurdish Oil Deal Shocks Iraq's Political Leaders 

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A Norwegian company begins drilling in the north without approval from Baghdad.




BAGHDAD — A controversial oil exploration deal between Iraq's autonomy-minded Kurds and a Norwegian company got underway this week without the approval of the central government here, raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls a portion of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, last year quietly signed a deal with Norway's DNO to drill for oil near the border city of Zakho. Iraqi and company officials describe the agreement as the first involving new exploration in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Drilling began after a ceremony Tuesday, during which Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish northern region, vowed "there is no way Kurdistan would accept that the central government will control our resources," according to news agency reports.

In Baghdad, political leaders on Wednesday reacted to the deal with astonishment.

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