Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell said on Tuesday it had held talks with Baghdad with a view to exploiting Iraqi production if UN-imposed sanctions are lifted against the country.
Meanwhile, British firm Premier Oil said it had studied the situation but denied reports it had held discussions with Iraq.
Shell spokesman Justin Everard told AFP: "We have held preliminary discussions with the Iraqi ministry of oil to investigate the potential opportunities in the Ratawi field.
"The discussions are mainly technical in nature and... the Iraqi authorities have been made clearly aware that we would do nothing to contravene United Nations resolutions," he added.
The talks come on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Gulf War, and at a time when the sanctions imposed over Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait are increasingly contested.
Iraq is currently allowed to sell some oil, but only to buy food and medicines. "We would only do business if the embargo was lifted," Everard said.
Shell had been in talks with Iraq since 1994, as had companies from France, Russia, Italy and China, he added.
The BBC had reported that Shell and Premier Oil had recently held technical talks on an initial contract worth some two billion dollars (2.1 billion euros). Everard could not confirm that figure.
Meanwhile, Premier Oil denied that it had held talks with Baghdad. As an international oil company it "reviewed a worldwide range of opportunities in oil-rich provinces and obviously Iraq is one of those," a spokesman told AFP.
But he insisted the firm had "no interest in Iraq at all and have never had any interest in Iraq."—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )