LUKOIL seeks political backing for Iraq oil deal

MOSCOW, April 2 (Reuters) - Russia's top oil producer LUKOIL LKOH.MM signed a partnership deal with the foreign ministry on Monday and said it counted on its support as it prepares for talks to revive a giant oil deal in Iraq.

LUKOIL and the ministry said in a statement that the deal, the first of its kind in Russia, aims to support LUKOIL’s projects abroad, defend the firm’s interests by diplomatic means and facilitate the firm’s meetings abroad.

LUKOIL will in turn consult the ministry on energy issues.

“Our company is entering new regions, including politically unstable regions. We will especially need support of the ministry in Iraq,” Interfax news agency quoted LUKOIL chief executive Vagit Alekperov as saying at a signing ceremony which was closed to reporters from foreign media organisations.

Alekperov said last month his company was optimistic about the prospects of reviving a Saddam-era deal to develop Iraq’s giant West Qurna deposit after the Iraqi cabinet approved a draft oil law.

The $4 billion deal to develop West Qurna is expected to be complicated by the fact that it was scrapped by the government of Saddam Hussein just before he was toppled in 2003.

Iraq’s parliament still has to pass a hydrocarbons law, aimed at setting out the framework for foreign companies investing in Iraq after decades of sanctions under Saddam and years of violence since the U.S.-led invasion.

Alekperov said LUKOIL will send a delegation to Iraq for more talks in March or April.

Alekperov is a major shareholder in LUKOIL alongside U.S. oil major ConocoPhillips COP.N, which has 20 percent in the firm.