Demonstrators in 'stop Iraq oil raid' call

4 February 2008 - 11:51am
Press release

Campaigners against plans for multinational companies, including UK firms, to control the development, production and depletion of Iraq's oil reserves will stage a demonstration tomorrow (Tuesday, 5 February) at a major London conference on Middle East energy.

Activists from the coalition Hands Off Iraqi Oil, including the charity War on Want and the group Iraq Occupation Focus, will protest outside the conference before Iraq's oil minister and Britain?s energy minister address delegates.

Iraqi minister Dr Hussain Al-Shahristani and UK minister Malcolm Wicks will speak at the conference, which is financed by the British companies BP and Shell, as well as ExxonMobil and StatoilHydro. The event comes as BP, which declared record profits in 2006, announces its full 2007 figures tomorrow (Tuesday), after Shell posted record UK and European company profits (£13.9bn) and ExxonMobil a US record $40.6bn profits last week.

The demonstrators warn that Iraq would lose billions of pounds in oil income under a proposed new law which the British and US governments are pressing the Baghdad administration to sign. Two in three Iraqis oppose the plans, according to a poll released earlier by the campaign groups.

Iraqi trade unions say the law will allow oil companies power over new oil fields for 25 years, with the country's economy run by overseas firms. Iraqi unions are still illegal almost five years since the 'pro-democracy' invasion and occupation of Iraq. According to the unions, the proposed law would surrender Iraq's economic sovereignty, undermine the development of Iraq?s workforce and increase unemployment.

Ruth Tanner, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "It is a scandal that BP and Shell intend to raid Iraq?s oil wealth for themselves. Not content with record profits, they would deny millions of people the money needed to rebuild their shattered land. The British government must stop trying to steamroller through this law against Iraqis' best interests."

Jonathan Stevenson, from the group Iraq Occupation Focus, said: "The Iraq war has been a disaster for Iraqis and the world. But for big oil companies like Shell and BP, war and occupation have been a chance to take control of the country's oil. Who should decide the future of Iraq's economy and resources: the people of Iraq, or Shell and BP?"

CONTACTS: Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728 NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • The conference - entitled The Future of Middle East Energy - will take place at Chatham House from Monday (4 February) to Tuesday (5 February).
  • Hands Off Iraqi Oil, a coalition of development, anti-war, environmental and human rights groups, comprises War on Want, Platform, Voices UK, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, and Corporatewatch UK.



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