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[casi] US warned not to seize control of Iraqi oil

October 31 2002

The chief executive of BP, Lord Browne, has warned Washington not to carve up Iraq for its own oil 
companies in the aftermath of any future war.

The comments from the most senior European oil executive, who has impeccable political connections 
in Britain, will be seen by anti-war protesters as further proof that the United States President, 
George Bush, has already made his mind up about an early attack.

The warning came as United Nations negotiations continued for a compromise resolution on Iraq that 
will satisfy Washington, Paris and Moscow.

Lord Browne's comments serve to underline concern that the US is primarily concerned with seizing 
control of Saddam Hussein's oil and handing it over to companies such as ExxonMobil rather than 
destroying his weapons of mass destruction.

Britain's biggest company is reviewing what impact the overthrow of Saddam would have on its own 
business and global crude supplies. Both London and Washington have been lobbied by the British oil 
giant, which is concerned that European companies could be left out in the cold.

"We have let it be known that the thing we would like to make sure, if Iraq changes regime, is that 
there should be a level playing field for the selection of oil companies to go in there if they're 
needed to do the work there," Lord Browne said on Tuesday.

The jockeying for oil continued as French and United States officials scrambled behind the scenes 
to reach a compromise on the UN resolution.

"A package is taking shape but it is not there yet," one diplomat said. "They could sort this out 
in an hour flat, but that doesn't mean they will."

At issue is what France, Russia and China, which hold veto power in the 15-member Security Council, 
consider hidden "trigger" language in the US text that they say would allow Washington to attack 
Iraq, overthrow Saddam and then contend the UN had authorised it.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said on Tuesday that negotiations were making progress: 
"We're hard at work and I think we're getting closer."

Asked how long Washington could wait, he said: "We're getting close to a point where we'll have to 
see whether or not we can bridge these remaining differences - in the very near future, I don't 
want to give you days or a week but it certainly isn't much longer than that."

In Washington, the chief UN arms inspector, Hans Blix, and Mohamed El Baradei, director-general of 
the International Atomic Energy Agency, were to meet Mr Bush and the Vice-President, Dick Cheney.

The Guardian, Agencies

~ Anai Rhoads

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