Japanese METI Minister Ohata Offered “Nuclear” Help to Iraq

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tokyo- (PanOrient News) Japan is ready to boost cooperation and projects in Iraq’s energy sector including rebuilding Iraqi Nuclear reactor(s), Hussain Shahristani, Iraqi deputy prime minister for energy, told Arab reporters on Monday.

Shahristani reportedly said after his meeting with Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akihiro Ohata in Baghdad in the same day, "we discussed the issue of reconstruction of the nuclear reactor(s) in Iraq... and the Japanese expressed their interest in that. Iraq will study the possibilities of developing its peaceful nuclear industry."

A joint statement was issued after the meeting calling on the two countries to reinforce economic cooperation in areas including postwar reconstruction, oil development and electricity generation in Iraq. Feasibility studies have already started to build an electricity generation station in Iraq, according to the statement.

Additionally, Japan will send a trade delegation to Iraq next month to discuss cooperation in the energy and transportation sectors.

This is the first visit to Iraq by a Japanese Cabinet minister since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power in September 2009. Arab diplomats in Tokyo told PanOrient News that the DPJ "has not given Arab countries the attention they used to get from Liberal Democratic Party."

Ohata called in Baghdad on the Iraqi government to resume negotiations with a group of Japanese firms over the development of the Nasiriyah oil field in southern Iraq.

A Japanese consortium, including Nippon Oil Corp., now JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., reached an accord in principle with the Iraqi government in August 2009 for oil development rights for that field. But negotiations have effectively been suspended, partly because of the national parliamentary election in March 2010.

Meanwhile, another consortium formed by Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., known as JAPEX, and Malaysia's state-run Petronas Carigali has won a contract to develop the Gharaf oil field, also in southern Iraq.

Japanese companies have been cautious about participating in reconstruction activities in Iraq due to security concerns. In its Travel Advice report issued last November, the Japanese Foreign Ministry warned that “bomb attacks against civilians, terrorism and other attacks occur on a daily basis in Iraq, and that the security situation throughout the country remains severe.”

This warning is greatly responsible for the lack of interest by Japanese companies to do business in Iraq, according to experts.

Inpex Corp., however, plans to bid for Iraqi oil development if Iraq holds a competitive bidding process open to foreign companies, Inpex President Toshiaki Kitamura told Japanese media in a recent interview.

Minister Ohata said in Baghdad he will encourage Japanese companies to actively engage in business in Iraq.

His visit to the Iraqi capital was not announced by the Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry (METI). It said earlier that Ohata would make a six-day trip to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, starting from Friday.

Japan is promoting infrastructure technology business, including nuclear power plants, in the Arab countries and seeking stable oil supplies from there.

Japanese crude oil imports from Iraq amounted to 3,6 Million barrel last November. This represents 3% of total Japanese crude imports in that month according to METI.

PanOrient News

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