Iraq Promotes Sharistani, Appoints Luaibi as New Oil Minister

Source:

"'Good continuity for the oil companies'. . ."

Iraq's Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani was promoted to the country's deputy prime minister for energy, with current deputy oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi being designated as his successor.

As senior deputy in the ministry of oil, Elaibi is said to have been instrumental in the country's recent oil and gas contracts with international oil companies and other agreements with neighboring countries.

Altogether, Iraq has awarded 15 oil and gas contracts since 2008 to international energy companies, representing the first major investment in the country's energy industry for more than 30 years.

"Elaibi means good continuity for the oil companies," said Samuel Ciszuk, Mideast energy analyst with IHS Global Insight. "He was very much involved in the negotiations of the contracts. He was very much involved in the talks with the oil companies."

Despite the appointment of Elaibi as minister, observers said that Shahristani would remain the dominant figure in the country's oil and gas industry.

"Hussain al-Shahristani asked for broader authority in the oil industry, especially with the issues of the contracts in the country's bidding rounds, and to have a say in running Iraq's energy sector," said a senior official. "When he got these assurances he accepted the post of deputy prime minister for energy."

Shahristani led the oil ministry through a series of agreements with IOC's that could increase Iraq's production capacity to 12 million b/d from the current 2.5 million b/d, subject to approval by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Observers suggested that Shahristani's continued control over the oil sector will be seen as assurance that contracts he agreed with IOC's will be honored in the absence of formal guarantees, given the country's lack of a new hydrocarbons law.

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