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Sun 31 Jan 2010 12:48 PM

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Iraq to be top oil producer in 6-7 years – minister

Oil chief sets capacity target at 12 million bpd by 2017, to overtake Saudi Arabia.

Iraq will become the world’s largest oil-producing nation in "six or seven years", according to oil minister Hussain Al Shahristani.

The official told Reuters that Baghdad is seeking to raise capacity to 12 million barrels per day (bpd) in that timeframe, which he believes will help the country negotiate its future oil quotas with OPEC.

"We can't find a reason to prevent Iraqi production becoming higher than any other OPEC state or even states outside OPEC,” said Al Shahristani. “We expect that to happen in the next six to seven years with co-ordination and agreement with other OPEC producers," he said.

Iraq is currently exempt from OPEC quotas, although the country is raising its exports significantly, which the organisation believes could depress the oil price.

"Iraq has been deprived of having a fair export level over the last years, during which we were not able to produce or export oil while other states got benefit from this and were able to export at higher levels," Al Shahristani said.

"Opec should put into consideration Iraq's need for oil revenues to rebuild its economy and country. Iraq has a definite need for these revenues."

Local news agency Aswat Al Iraq said that oil revenues were up to $4.5bn in December.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, supermajor BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, indicated that it was not impossible that Iraq could lift its production to 10 million bpd in a decade’s time.

However, Hayward told The Times newspaper that the realities of the challenges of execution on the ground and the need to build capability on the ground mean things will happen "a little slower than all of us are perhaps planning for today".

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