Baghdad, 08 March 2010 (Reuters)
Iraq has extended a memorandum of understanding with Royal Dutch Shell on a natural gas venture around the southern oil hub of Basra for six months from March 2010, Iraq's oil minister told Reuters on Sunday.
"We will resume talks with Shell after the election," the minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, said after he cast his vote in the country's second full parliamentary election since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
"The Shell contract is in its final form after Shell accepted our remarks and demands," he said. He gave no further details but said that a final deal would be left to the new government after the national election concludes.
"We informed Shell that talks must continue but because there is not enough time now, the next elected government will continue our job."
Iraq has been working to finalize a multi-billion-dollar joint venture between its South Gas Company, Shell and Mitsubishi, which would capture huge amounts of gas currently being wasted through burning and use it in the domestic market or for exports.
Iraqi officials told Reuters last month that the initial agreement was set to expire on March 22, but that Shell had requested an extension.
Shell, Europe's largest oil company, signed in January final contracts for the development of supergiant Iraqi oilfields Majnoon and West Qurna Phase One.