By Aseel Kami
BAGHDAD, March 7 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 138-trillion-Iraqi-dinar ($118.5
billion) budget in October, but differences between Shi'ite,
Sunni and Kurdish factions repeatedly thwarted attempts by
lawmakers to pass the draft legislation in parliament.
Kurdish lawmakers boycotted the vote on Thursday, but 168
members of parliament 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," Kurdish MP Rawaz Khoshnaw
said. "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 over land and oil rights between the central
government and Iraq's Kurdish region, which in recent years has
signed contracts on its own terms with international oil
Kurdistan says it is owed more than 4 trillion Iraqi dinars,
or $3.5 billion in total 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, which include majors such as Exxon Mobil,
Russia's Gazprom Neft and Chevron Corp.
Some lawmakers from the Sunni-backed Iraqiya Bloc also
boycotted the session, saying that passing the budget without
the Kurds on board would lead to bigger problems.
"Today we laid the foundation stone in the project of
dividing Iraq, because to ignore one's partner and not listen to
his demands will push him to seek other options," said Jaber
al-Jaberi, an Iraqiya MP among those who boycotted the session.
"I expect the Kurds will go to the federal court to disrupt
The Kurds say the right to dictate their own oil policy is
enshrined in the country's federal constitution.
Kurdish crude used to be shipped to world markets through a
Baghdad-controlled pipeline running from Kirkuk to the Turkish
port of Ceyhan, but exports via that channel dried up in
December due to the payment row.
The 2013 budget is based on oil price of $90 and average
exports of 2.9 mln barrels per day.
New legislation to govern the world's fourth largest oil
reserves has been caught up for years in parliament, which has
been all but paralysed since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq over
one year ago.