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Azeri minister says not seeking to oust BP
* Oil and gas output to rise slightly next year
* Azerbaijan says nothing threatens BP's position in the country
By Lada Evgrashina
BAKU, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Azerbaijan is not seeking to oust BP from its oil industry while asking it to improve output from major fields it operates, its energy minister said on Monday.
The statement follows accusations by President Ilham Aliyev last week, when he said BP made "grave mistakes" in planning production at the giant Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli fields, depriving the country's budget of $8 billion in potential revenues.
"The signal to BP over the necessity to improve works at ACG does not mean that we are against this company or any other foreign companies," said Natik Aliyev, Azeri energy minister, who is unrelated to president Aliyev.
"There is no and cannot be any threat to BP or any other foreign company," he told reporters on Monday.
The statement should help alleviate fears after President Aliyev's comments that BP and its partners in the project - Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Statoil - would face "serius measures" after having failed to maintain output at promised levels.
Foreign majors have for years watched neighbouring Russia and Kazakhstan take larger shares in oil projects away from Western companies accused of contract violations.
However, the dispute will likely have an impact on talks with the ACG consortium on whether to extend the contract and work on the fields after 2024.
Minister Aliyev said Azeri state oil firm SOCAR, which also has a share in the project, should strengthen its control over the annual production programme.
"New oil wells are needed because old wells have limited life period... New methods of exploration are needed," the minister said.
The BP-led ACG consortium has invested $28.7 billion in Azerbaijan since the 1990s and was supposed to produce more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) after a third expansion phase was completed in 2008 but has not lived up to expectations.
After hitting 823,000 bpd in 2010, output has fallen, averaging 684,000 bpd in the first half of this year.
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