Iraq’s parliamentary Oil, Gas & Natural Resources Committee (OGNRC) will ask the Oil Ministry to delay a fourth oil and gas contract licensing auction planned for January 2012 until key legislation for the hydrocarbons sector is passed.

The OGNRC has prepared a statement that will officially call for the postponement of the round, to be read at the next parliamentary session due on 3 July after a month-long recess.

“The committee believes that there are legal and technical problems that should be addressed by the ministry before holding the fourth licensing round and presenting 12 sites for exploration by international companies,” says Furat al-Sharei, a member of the committee, Iraq’s AK News agency reports.

Al-Sharei adds that the contracts should not be awarded until an Iraqi hydrocarbons law is passed by parliament. A draft law has been proposed since 2007, but has yet to be passed by parliament. As a result, Iraq has had to rely on Saddam Hussain-era laws to develop its oil sector.

Adnan Janabi, the committee’s chairman, said in May that he would push for parliament to formally block the bid round that covers exploration blocks across the country (MEED 17:5:11).

Iraq’s parliament is already tense with a delicate balance between its main Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions. Disputes between the executive and legislative branches could further stress the already strained government alliances.