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Sun 27 May 2007 12:30 AM

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Iran, Iraq keen to develop shared fields

Iran says countries hope to work together on joint oil fields.

Iran wants to develop previously untapped oil fields shared with neighbouring Iraq, a move that will benefit the two countries which fought a war in the 1980s, an Iranian oil official said on Saturday.

"We hope to start working together. Both countries stand to gain. We would strengthen investment and make the best use of our shared fields," Gholamhossein Nozari, managing director of state-owned National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), told reporters.

Iran and Iraq have been strengthening ties since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, arousing concern among Iraq's once dominant Sunni minority and other Arab states as well as in the United States.

Washington accuses Iran of stirring up violence in Iraq. Tehran blames the presence of U.S. troops for the unrest.

"There is a general agreement between us (on the fields)," Nozari said, adding that the two countries had already held two rounds of discussion on developing the fields.

"We want to use 'green' fields," he said, referring to previously untapped fields.

"We have many joint fields like Naftshahr, Paidar-e Gharb, Azar, Azadegan and so many others," he said on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran organised by Iran's Ravand Institute for Economic and International Studies.

Iraq has already invited Iranian firms to bid for contracts to build at least four oil refineries in the country, Iraq's Oil Ministry said this month. Iraq needs to attract investment from foreign firms to develop fields and boost output.

Iran, OPEC's No. 2 oil producer which is under U.N. sanctions because a row about its nuclear programme, is also keen to draw in new investors.

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