By Missy Ryan
Gov't spokesman al-Dabbagh says focus currently on meeting domestic needs.
Iraq does not have any surplus gas to sell via the planned Nabucco pipeline now as it is focusing on its domestic needs, but it may one day supply the project, a government spokesman said on Sunday."There is a possibility Iraq will be one of the sources of the gas, but not in the current stage because we don't have surplus gas now," Ali al-Dabbagh said.
Dabbagh spoke a day ahead of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's trip to Ankara, where transit agreements will be signed paving the way for the 7.9 billion euro ($11 billion) pipepline, which is expected to pump 31 billion cubic metres of natural gas to Europe by 2014 and reduce European reliance on Russian gas.
Dabbagh said Maliki would attend the signing ceremony but that "Iraq will not sign the Nabucco agreement because at this point domestic use of gas is Iraq's priority".
Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria will sign the transit deals.
In May, Baghdad rejected a plan from Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region ruled by minority Kurds, to supply gas to the Nabucco project, intensifying a long-running feud between Iraq's majority Arabs and minority Kurds over oil and territorial issues.
The Iraqi government rejects any Kurdish deals with foreign firms, or exports, without its permission.
Meanwhile, the US special energy envoy said on Sunday that Russia is free to supply gas to the pipeline and countries participating in the project must accept it as a partner.
However, Richard Morningstar reiterated Washington's opposition to the possible use of Iranian gas in the pipeline, after Turkey said Iranian gas could be used in the project.
"My understanding of the agreement is that 50 percent of the gas that will go into Nabucco is open for competition among any suppliers and Russia is certainly free to participate in that way to supply part of that 50 percent," Morningstar told a panel interview including Reuters. (Reuters)
Mr Morningstar conveniently forgets that:
a) Nabucco is a European project, not a US/Israeli-mentored pipedream,
b) Nabucco is a project to supply EU gas from sources other than Russia and lessen the dependence of EU on Russian gas,
c) Turkey already gets gas from Iran (actually Turkmen gas via Iran, but the money goes to Iran) and so what,
d) Gas is available for Nabucco in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and it is not a clever idea not to mention it while opposing Iranian gas.
And how on earth did Mr Morningstar calculate that 50% is already there and Russia can fill the rest? He either does not have any idea about what happens in the Caspian and Middle East gas sector, or he has other plans of his own as usual, such as thinking of the Israeli offshore gas for Nabucco.