By John Lee.
The Governor of Nineveh province, Atheel al Nujaifi (pictured), has told Reuters that Baghdad has focused on the giant southern oilfields and has paid little attention to developing resources in his province.
The province has started talks with oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, and is drafting terms to attract investment. Nujaifi added:
"We are not ready to wait for decades until the crude runs out from the south to start energy investment in Nineveh province ... We listened to [oil companies'] proposals about how to best invest in Nineveh, but we did not sign deals."
"We will start oil investments in the province with a priority to the downstream industry, and that could be followed by broader investments in the upstream sector ... When we have oil majors working, then definitely there will be social benefits, job opportunities and economic gains. Huge investments could create a better, stable environment."
Last month the provincial council of the predominantly Sunni Muslim governorate granted him the power to sign deals with foreign oil firms independently of Baghdad, which immediately rejected the move.
The governor has drafted regulations that could allow foreign investors to bid for an integrated project to build a 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery and develop an oilfield to feed it.
Nujaifi said the province holds around 20 discovered but untapped oilfields and has the potential for huge resources that have yet to be discovered.