- Lord Browne, chief executive of BP and one of New Labour's
favourite industrialists, 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 the UK, will be seen by anti-war
protesters as further proof that US president George Bush has already made
his mind up about an early attack.
- They will also 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 a
regime change in Baghdad would have on its own business and global crude
- Both London and Washington have been lobbied by the UK
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," said Lord Browne yesterday at a briefing
on the company's results.
- Lord Browne said that most exploration for new supplies
had halted there when the Iraqis nationalised their industry. But he believed
there was a plenty of oil and gas waiting to be discovered in Iraq and
that BP should be in prime position to capitalise because it had found
most of the country's oil before being thrown out in the 1970s.
- BP said it had had no contact with Baghdad since 1989.
Iraq's reserves amount to 115bn barrels of oil, making it the biggest source
of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia.
- Lord Browne's views will be listened to carefully in
Downing Street because the BP executive team has such close links with
the UK government that it was once dubbed Blair Petroleum. A number of
former BP executives, such as Lord Simon, have been seconded into Whitehall
while one of Mr Blair's personal assistants, Anji Hunter, joined Lord Browne's
- Impending war with Iraq has given a financial boost to
BP and other western oil firms by driving up the price of oil to $27 per
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