Iraq has increased its proven oil reserves by three billion barrels to 115 billion barrels despite the crippling embargo imposed on it after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, newspapers reported Tuesday.
"Iraq has succeeded during its years of sanctions in increasing oil reserves by three billion barrels to 115 billion barrels," oil ministry undersecretary Taha Hammud told the weekly Al-Rafidain paper.
"Thanks to President Saddam Hussein's directives and the efforts of the workers in the oil sector, Iraq's oil reserves will continue to increase leaps and bounds in the future to reach 300 billion barrels to be number one in the world," he said.
"The oil ministry has drawn up an ambitious plan to continue oil exploration throughout Iraq," he said. "Once the necessary equipment is available, exploration will focus at first in the western desert region" bordering Saudi Arabia.
Iraq is a member of the 11-nation Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), but has not been part of the cartel's quota system since the 1991 Gulf War.
The sanctions-hit country has the capacity to produce around 3 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) and has ambitions to boost output to 6 million bpd, but admits it needs to invest 30 billion dollars in infrastructure to do so.
Baghdad has drawn up contracts, mainly with Russian and Chinese companies, to develop its oil fields, but work cannot begin until a UN embargo is lifted.
Since 1996, Iraq has been authorised under the UN-supervised oil-for-food programme to export crude -- with the revenues paid into a UN escrow account -- to finance imports of humanitarian supplies.
Iraq's reserves are second in the world to Saudi Arabia, which has reserves totalling 261 billion barrels.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse 2001.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )