Iraqi PM, Exxon chief meet to discuss, energy major's plans in Iraq

In a sign of a possible end to its dispute with America's largest oil company, Iraq's prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki met with the head of Exxon Mobil yesterday to discuss the oil giant's plans in the country.

Exxon is helping in the development of one of Iraq's largest oil fields, but in signing separate deals with the OPEC member's largely autonomous Kurdish region, the energy giant has angered Baghdad.

Though tensions between Baghdad and the Kurds have simmered for years over rights to develop Iraq's vast oil wealth, there has been a marked rise in these in recent months. After the 2003 US-led invasion, the Kurds who have their own armed forces, have entered into many agreements with foreign oil companies.

In a recent move, the Kurds started trucking oil pumped from their self-rule region into neighbouring Turkey, leading to to allegations of smuggling and threats of lawsuits from Baghdad.

The central government in Iraq, does not recognise the Kurdish agreements, that offer more generous terms than its own. It wants to manage the country's oil policy route all oil supplies through state-run pipelines.

The Iraqi announcement of the meeting between prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and Exxon chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson came in a brief statement after the talks in Baghdad. The statement, which was patchy on specifics said the men discussed the company's activities and working conditions in Iraq.