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Iraqi Kurds say will sue Baghdad if it blocks oil sales

By Reuters - Jul 03,2014 - Last updated at Jul 03,2014

LONDON — Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region has hit back at Baghdad over independent oil exports, a letter from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) showed, threatening to counter sue the central government for trying to block its sales.

The strongly worded letter shows growing confidence from the Kurdish capital Erbil in the long-running oil sales dispute, as Baghdad struggles to regain control of swathes of territory lost to a Sunni Islamic militant insurgency.

The letter, addressed to Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi from KRG Natural Resource Minister Ashti Hawrami, said the Kurds would pursue legal action by the middle of this month if Baghdad does not stop its “interference”.

“[The] KRG will bring civil, and where necessary, criminal proceedings against your ministry and any person, foreign adviser, or any entity conspiring with your ministry in any form,” Hawrami wrote, in the letter dated June 29 and carried on a KRG website. He did not specify a court for the action.

The autonomous Kurdish region has been trying to establish greater financial independence from Baghdad by selling its own oil production directly on international markets. It has largely been spared the violence affecting much of Iraq.

Baghdad has cut the KRG’s budget since January over the dispute, arguing the sales are illegal, and has repeatedly threatened to sue any firm that buys oil from the autonomous region.

But since the KRG took control of the northern oil hub of Kirkuk amid the retreat of the Iraqi military from the Islamic State-led insurgency, the autonomous region has been emboldened.

On Thursday, the president of Iraq’s Kurdish north asked the region’s parliament to prepare the way for a referendum on its long-saught goal of independence.

In the letter, Hawrami said Baghdad has treated the 2005 Iraqi constitution with “contempt”, arguing it was designed to allow the autonomous Kurdish region to export its own oil.

“These actions of your ministry are clearly politically motivated, hostile, illegitimate, and without constitutional basis, and contrary to the fundamental interests of the people of Iraq,” the letter said.

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