(EnergyAsia, October 27 2010, Wednesday) — Without substantiated evidence, Iran’s and Iraq’s respective claims of having higher oil reserves are unreliable and cannot be accepted, according to analysts including a former Iraqi oil minister.

Iraq raised its estimate of proven oil reserves to 143 billion barrels, briefly putting it in third place in terms of the world’s largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Canada.

Within days, Iran responded to reclaim third spot when Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi raised his country’s oil reserves to more than 150 billion barrels from 138 billion previously.

Issam Al-Chalabi, who served as Saddam Hussein’s oil minister from 1987-1990, questioned how both countries have been able to substantially raise their oil reserves in such a short time.

He believes that both Iraq and Iran are politically motivated to raise their reserves.

In Iraq, the outgoing government is under pressure to show that it boosted the prospects of the country’s oil and gas sector. Iran, squeezed by international sanctions for pursuing its nuclear programme, wants the world to acknowledge its importance.

Analysts said both countries are also jostling to increase their production quota within the output set by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). An enlarged reserve base would give both countries greater claim to a quota increase.