Julia Payne & Simon Falush Reuters
Iraqi Kurdistan said it is negotiating with two or three major international companies to operate oilfields and expects to announce the outcome in about a month, in a move likely to further heighten tensions with Baghdad.
The remarks by Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami on Tuesday highlight the autonomous region's resolve to push ahead with development of its oil resources independently of the Baghdad-based central government.
Kurdistan has upset the central government by signing deals directly with oil majors such as Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil, providing lucrative production-sharing contracts and better operating conditions than in the south of the country.
Last week Hawrami said Kurdistan, which is in the north of Iraq and has run its own administration and armed forces since 1991, had awarded Chevron a stake in the Qara Dagh oil block.
"We are negotiating with two to three other significant companies. They will hopefully be announced in a month or so," Hawrami told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in London.
He also said Exxon Mobil's contentious deal to operate in the autonomous region was on track.