UPDATE 1-Iraq parliament passes budget despite Kurdish boycott

Thu Mar 7, 2013 11:18am EST

BAGHDAD, March 7 (Reuters) - The Iraqi parliament passed the country's 2013 budget on Thursday despite a boycott by Kurdish members in protest at the amount allotted to pay oil companies operating in the autonomous north, lawmakers said.

Iraq's cabinet approved the $118.6 billion budget in October, but infighting between Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions repeatedly scuttled attempts by lawmakers to pass the draft legislation in parliament.

Kurdish lawmakers boycotted the vote on Thursday, but 168 lawmakers were present, ensuring the budget was passed, according to a statement released by the parliament. A quorum is 163.

"We didn't attend the meeting," said Kurdish MP Rawaz Khoshnaw. "None of our demands were included in the budget."

"This is a very dangerous and alarming sign of what's coming in Iraq".

The standoff over the budget opened a new front in a long-running feud between the central government and Iraq's Kurdistan region, which in recent years has signed contracts on its own terms with international oil companies.

Kurdistan says it is owed more than 4 trillion Iraqi dinars, or $3.5 billion to cover the costs accumulated by oil companies operating there over the past three years, but Baghdad rejects those contracts as illegal.

The 2013 budget allocates 750 billion Iraqi dinars ($644.33 million) for oil companies operating in the northern Kurdish enclave.

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