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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Lavrov discusses stability, oil cooperation with Iraqi FM

RIA Novosti

19/09/2007 17:17 MOSCOW, September 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's acting foreign minister met with his Iraqi counterpart on Wednesday to discuss stability in the war-torn country and contracts for Russian companies.

"We welcome an independent and strong Iraq, a country that can ensure its interests," Sergei Lavrov told Hishiar al-Zibari at the start of talks, which he said would help Moscow outline steps to promote security in the Middle East region.

The foreign ministers of countries neighboring Iraq, as well as top diplomats from the UN Security Council permanent members, will meet in Istanbul in October to discuss the situation in the country, which continues to be plagued by sectarian violence, terrorist attacks and abductions of foreigners four years on from the U.S.-led invasion.

Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Lavrov said Iraq was interested in expanding Russia's role in its post-war revival and pledged to ensure greater security for Russian companies.

Lavrov said the Iraqi president had pledged in a message to the Russian leader, handed over by al-Zibari, to step up security in the country to encourage business ties with foreign companies.

Unknown gunmen attacked a Russian Embassy car in Baghdad last June killing one person and abducting four others. TV channel Al Jazeera later cited an Al Qaeda statement as saying the hostages were executed.

On energy cooperation, Lavrov said: "The oil and natural gas sector, and power engineering have been traditional areas of our cooperation. Hoshiar al-Zibari reaffirmed his country's interest in expanding Russia's role in Iraq's economic rehabilitation in the post-war period."

Russia's largest independent oil company LUKoil, which worked in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime, has sought to retain the 2002 contract to develop the vast West Qurna field. The status of the contract remains ambiguous, and Iraq has yet to pass legislation regulating the oil sector.

Al-Zibari, who will stay in Russia until September 21, is also to meet with acting Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, and Russian businessmen.

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