BAGHDAD Jan 15 Iraqi Kurdish ministers walked
out of a cabinet session on Wednesday in protest at the
country's draft 2014 budget, further complicating a feud over
the autonomous region's plans to export crude via a new pipeline
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said last week that
crude had begun to flow through the pipeline, and exports were
on track to start at the end of January, inviting bidders to
register with the Kurdistan Oil Marketing Organisation (KOMO).
Baghdad rejected that as a violation of the constitution and
on Wednesday reiterated that Iraq's State Oil Marketing
Organisation (SOMO) had exclusive rights to sell crude from
Kurdistan and the rest of the country.
The draft budget requires the Kurds to export 400,000
barrels per day (bpd) -- well above the region's current export
capacity -- and says Baghdad will deduct any shortfall from the
17 percent share of state revenues to which they are entitled.
The budget has yet to be voted on by parliament and could
undergo some changes, but Kurdish lawmakers said the draft sent
the wrong signal ahead of planned negotiations over the oil
"It's certainly a negative message Baghdad is sending by
adopting the budget without agreement from the KRG," said
lawmaker Rawaz Khoshnaw. "The Iraqi government should have given
more time for talks and negotiation with the KRG."
Kurdish members of parliament boycotted last year's budget,
but it passed nonetheless.
A delegation led by Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
was due to visit Baghdad for talks to ease the dispute, which is
rooted in disagreement over how to exploit Iraq's vast oil
resources and share the proceeds.
Kurdistan used to export crude to Turkey through a pipeline
controlled by Baghdad, but exports via that channel dried up one
year ago due to a row over payments for companies operating in
the northern enclave.
Since then, the Kurds have been trucking smaller quantities
of crude to Turkey and collecting the revenues directly, whilst
laying their own independent pipeline, which was completed late
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said the government had
long since prepared the budget, estimated at 174.6 trillion
dinars ($150.12 billion), blaming the Kurds for holding it up.
(Reporting by Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel Coles;
Editing by Mike Collett-White)