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Old 03-31-2013, 07:14 PM   #4
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BAGHDAD, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Iraq's oil production is expected to double to 6 million barrels a day by 2020, posing a significant challenge to a divided OPEC while meeting about half the world's incremental demand for oil.

But internal turmoil, with independence-minded Kurds seeking their own oil industry and a new bombing offensive by al-Qaida, could cripple Baghdad's ambitions to become the world's top oil producer.

In the last year, Iraq's oil industry, and the country's reserves of 143.1 billion barrels of oil with possibly as much again in untapped reservoirs, has become highly politicized. It's a key element in an increasingly acrimonious tug-of-war between Tehran and Washington for influence in Baghdad, a geopolitical contest sharpened the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq last December.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government wants to boost oil production higher than Saudi Arabian levels to 10 million-12 million barrels per day within the next seven years. That depends on investment of some $150 billion by major international oil companies over the next decade under 20-year production contracts first awarded in 2009.

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