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Iraqi Trade Unions Criticize Govt's Draft Oil Law

Leaders of Iraq's labor movement Thursday criticized the Iraqi government's new draft oil law, saying it would "hand control" of the country's oil production to multinational companies.

A statement issued by the movement at the end of a meeting in Amman urged a fundamental rethink of the forthcoming oil law, which is designed to allow foreign investment in the oil sector.

Iraqi trade unionists criticized the major role for foreign companies in the draft law, which specifies that up to two thirds of Iraq's known reserves would be developed by multinationals, under contracts lasting 15 to 20 years.

The negotiations for a new Iraq hydrocarbon law continued this week with the circulation of a draft law that recommends the government sign production sharing agreements and other service and buyback contracts.

The statement was seen by Dow Jones Newswires from Platform, a London-based charity focused on oil's social and enviromental impact, which attended the meeting.

The statement said that trade unions reject handing control of oil to foreign companies, whose aim is to make huge profits at the expense of the Iraqi people, and to rob the national wealth, according to long-term, unfair contracts.

The trade unions were also angry at their exclusion from the drafting process, and called for a delay to the law to allow proper consultation. "The Iraqi people refuse to allow the future of oil to be decided behind closed doors", they stated.

"This law has a lot of problems. It was prepared without consulting Iraqi experts, Iraqi civil society or trade unions. We reject this draft and demand more time to debate the law," the statement quoted Hasan Jumaa, head of the Federation of Oil Unions in southern Iraq as saying.

"The Iraqi national interest is surrendered in this law which allows foreign companies investment terms that exploit Iraq's oil wealth," said Adnan Saffar, member of the Executive Committee of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers.

PSAs, promoted by Washington and London, give huge returns on investment, but deprives Iraq of up to $194 billion, according to the Platform study issued last year, entitled: "Crude Designs: The Rip-off of Iraq's oil wealth."

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