Colin Powell - Iraqi oil and "old Europe". Essential reading.

John O'Neill johnfergaloneill at
Thu Jan 23 13:22:52 MST 2003

US would hold oilfields 'in trust' for the Iraqi people, says Powell
By Conor O'Clery, in New York

  The US Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell, has promised that a US
military occupation would hold Iraq's oilfields "in trust" for the Iraqi
people, in an apparent effort to counter worldwide accusations that the
looming war is mainly about control of the country's vast oil reserves.

However, in a session with US journalists, Mr Powell hinted at divisions
within the US administration as to whether Iraqi oilfields should be
privatised or left in Iraqi government hands, and if the US or the UN should
oversee oil output in the aftermath of a successful US-led invasion.

Asked if foreign companies, like Chevron-Texaco, or the government-owned
Iraqi National Oil Company, would control the oilfields, Mr Powell replied:
"We don't have an answer to that question yet."

If the US were the occupying power, the oilfields would be operated for the
benefit of the Iraqi people, he asserted. "How will we operate it? How best
to do that? We are studying different models."

Iraqi oil "will be held in trust for the Iraqi people, to benefit the Iraqi
people. That is a legal obligation that the occupying power will have," Mr
Powell said.

Conservatives in the administration favour by-passing the Iraqi National Oil
Company, taking short-term control of the oilfields, and opting for
privatisation, according to reports in Washington.

"Everybody speculates about what my views are," Mr Powell said. "It \ will
be held and it will be used in accordance with international law that lays
out specific responsibilities of an occupying power."

Anti-war protesters claim that the Bush administration is planning to
privatise the oil fields, which have known reserves of 112 million barrels.
They say the US, heavily dependent on fossil fuel energy, would move to
release Iraqi oil on to the world market, reduce the dominance of Saudi
Arabia with its 262 million barrels of reserves, and engineer the slashing
of oil prices to benefit the US economy.

In Dublin, meanwhile, the Taoiseach is set to agree to a Dáil discussion on
the use of Shannon Airport as a stop-over and refuelling depot for US troops
en route to the Gulf. Debate is likely to centre on perceived compromising
of Irish neutrality and accusations over oil.

Mr Powell also questioned whether France, which has angered Washington by
suggesting it might block any move towards war at the UN Security Council,
was serious about ever coming to grips with Iraqi deception.

US Defence Secretary Mr Donald Rumsfeld yesterday dismissed Germany and
France as "old Europe ... If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the
centre of gravity is shifting to the east. You look at vast numbers of other
countries in Europe, they're not with France and Germany on this, they're
with the United States."

© The Irish Times

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