Iraq parliament votes to create national oil company: lawmakers

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s parliament voted on Monday to establish a new National Oil Company to manage its energy sector, lawmakers told Reuters.

“It’s a significant law to push forward the development process of Iraq’s energy sector,” said member of parliament Husham al-Suhail.

The new company will serve as an umbrella organization for Iraqi state oil firms, said Hamza al-Jawahiri, an oil analyst who helped the oil ministry draft the law.

“The job of the new company is to manage Iraq’s upstream operations. This will leave the ministry room to set plans and strategies for the development of the Iraqi energy sector,” said Jawahiri.

The move has been years in the making and revives a company originally established in the 1960s and merged into the Oil Ministry in 1987.

Kurdish lawmakers voted with the majority to establish the new company, despite ongoing acrimony between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government following a September referendum on Kurdish independence.

The central government took charge of half of the oilfields that fell under Iraqi Kurdistan’s control in 2014, including the oil city of Kirkuk, soon after the northern region voted for independence in the referendum which Baghdad opposed.

Kirkuk crude sales have been halted since Iraqi forces took back control of the oilfields from the Kurds last October.

Iraq’s oil production is currently averaging more than 4.5 million barrels per day.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; writing by Raya Jalabi; editing by Jason Neely