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The Guardian: BP positions itself for share of Iraqi oil

· Talks with Baghdad officials held in Jordan
· Campaigners say oil law will cost country billions

Terry Macalister
Tuesday February 5 2008

BP has been holding meetings with Iraqi oil officials as it speeds up plans to re-enter one of the biggest but politically most controversial oil provinces in the world, five years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein by the British and US military.

The move comes as BP is drawing fire for abandoning any pursuit of green credentials. Environmental groups accuse the new chief executive, Tony Hayward, of “recarbonising” a once enlightened oil group.

BP said it was “possible” some of its executives might meet the Iraqi oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, today at a Royal Institute of International Affairs conference in London, sponsored by BP, Shell and other western oil majors.

A spokesman for BP, which will report annual profits of about $18bn, confirmed managers met Iraqi oil officials last week in Jordan and talked about providing technical assistance.

Iraq has more than 115bn barrels of recoverable reserves, an attraction for oil groups at a time when easily recoverable reserves are becoming more difficult to secure.

BP was last night playing down any likelihood of an imminent move into Iraq. “It is a country of interest to us but we are waiting for political and security stability to return before we will take anything further,” a spokesman said.

The group has already undertaken technical studies on the Rumeila oilfield for the new government of Iraq. It is gearing up for further involvement following the drafting of a new oil law in Iraq. The chief executive of Shell, Jeroen van der Veer, also admitted last week that his company was looking closely at re-entering Iraq.

When British and American forces invaded five years ago, Tony Blair and George Bush denied they were waging war to secure oil supplies.

The appearance of Shahristani with British energy minister Malcolm Wicks today will be met with campaigners from the charity War on Want and other groups that have formed a coalition called Hands Off Iraqi Oil. They claim the country will lose “billions of pounds in oil income” under the proposed new law which they say the British and US governments are pressing Baghdad to sign.

“It is a scandal that BP and Shell intend to raid Iraqis’ oil wealth for themselves. Not content with record profits, they would deny millions of people the money needed to rebuild their shattered land,” said Ruth Tanner, senior campaigns officer at War on Want.

Meanwhile the Platform campaign group accused Hayward of starting BP on a dangerous programme of “recarbonisation” since he took over last April from Lord Browne, who had vowed to take the company “beyond petroleum”.

James Marriott, of Platform, said: “Moving into the tar sands of Canada and dropping a carbon capture and storage plan for Peterhead are part of a recarbonisation of BP. It might help the share price in the short term but longer-term Hayward is exposing the company to the dangers of a rising carbon price and falling oil price.” and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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