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BP spill won't affect Iraq projects: oil minister

By Ahmed Rasheed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's oil minister said on Saturday he sees no impact from the massive oil spill at a BP <BP.L> well in the Gulf of Mexico on Iraq's current or future projects to develop its giant oilfields.

BP has promised to pay damages to those hurt by the worst oil spill in U.S. history and has committed to a $20 billion fund for clean-up and other costs stemming from the spill. Its costs to date have topped $3 billion and the company's financial woes have triggered takeover speculation.

BP had said it would invest around $15 billion to develop Iraq's largest oilfield at Rumaila, where BP and its partner, China's CNPC, plan to boost output to 2.85 million barrels per day from around 1.066 million bpd.

"We don't see that the problem BP is facing would ever affect its work in Iraq, whether now or in the future," Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told Reuters on Saturday.

"We are totally comfortable with the performance of BP in developing Rumaila," he said. "The pace of work (in Rumaila) is continuing quickly and according to the plan we agreed on with the company."

On Wednesday, BP boss Tony Hayward met with an Abu Dhabi state investment fund, part of a quest for cash to ward off takeovers and help pay for the oil spill.

Shahristani also said Iraq's Oil Ministry is moving ahead with legal procedures to set up a joint venture, named Basra Gas Co, with Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L> and Japan's Mitsubishi <8058.T> to capture gas being flared at southern oilfields.

He said he could not comment on when the final contract for the multibillion-dollar deal would be signed after the cabinet approved it last month.

"Now we are taking the required legal procedures to set up the joint company, I don't know how long these procedures would take and I can't specify when we would sign the final contract," the minister said.

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