MOSCOW, April 17 (Reuters) - Russian state oil company Rosneft said on Wednesday it was interested in helping explore for and develop oil fields in Iraq.
"Iraq has a high potential for oil production, but it may be realized only in a stable environment in the country. We are sure that only large-scale bilateral projects will allow efficient development of the economy of Iraq," Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin was quoted as saying in a statement.
Sechin and Sergei Chemezov, head of the Russian technology firm Rostec, met Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday and said they were ready to hold a technical audit of Iraq's existing oil facilities and support exploration and development of oil fields in the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a vocal opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, last year called for Russia to strengthen its presence in the OPEC oil producer state.
LUKOIL, Russia's second-largest crude producer behind Rosneft, and Gazprom Neft, which ranks fifth, are already present in Iraq.
LUKOIL's oil production has been falling for the past three years due to sluggish output at its ageing Siberian fields. It has been seeking participation in overseas projects and is developing the giant West Qurna-2 field in Iraq.
Rosneft kept Russian oil output the highest in the world last year, ahead of Saudi Arabia at 10.37 million barrels per day (bpd). Russia, whose proceeds from oil and gas make up about half of its budget revenues, aims to keep its crude production at no less than 10 million bpd until 2020.