CAIRO (AFX) – Iraq is reserving the West Qurna 2 oilfield for Russia despite scrapping a contract with Russian company LUKoil to develop it, a top Iraqi oil ministry official said.

“The West Qurna field is reserved for the Russians by a decision of the Iraqi leadership, not for any Russian company in particular but for the Russian government,” the ministry’s first undersecretary Hussein Suleiman told AFP.

“Moscow has the right to propose (another) Russian company to develop this field,” Mr Suleiman said on the sidelines of an Arab oil ministers’ meeting here.

The official denied a report in the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) newsletter that LUKoil had lost the contract after the Iraqi government discovered it had been in contact with the Iraqi opposition.

“The Russian government had in 1997 proposed to LUKoil to work according to a precise timetable, but this company did not conduct activities during the period of the embargo, contrary to the terms of the contract,” Mr Suleiman said.

“We sent it warnings on several occasions, but it did not react. We had the right therefore to end the contract.”