The deal has yet to be approved by Khartoum. However, the government expressed approval of ONGC investment in the country’s hydrocarbons industry at the time of its acquisition of the assets of Canadian firm Talismanin 2002 (MEED 14:3:03). ‘We preferred the Indian company because it is government-owned and pressures of non-government organisations on it are less than on private companies,’ said Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail in November.

Intense pressure from human rights groups, who accuse Khartoum of using oil revenues to finance its war against the southern rebels, finally forced Talisman to sell its stake in the 230,000-barrel-a-day Greater Nile oil project. After protracted negotiations with other partners in the venture, ONGC acquired the 25 per cent holding for $771 million in March.

Sweden’s Lundin Petroleumsold its 40.4 per cent stake in Block 5A to Malaysia’s Petronasfor $142.5 million in April. However, Lundin said at the time that it had no intention of withdrawing entirely from Sudan and the company retains a 24.5 per cent stake in Block 5B.