‘We thought we would reach agreement very quickly. We reached agreement very quickly with the US’ Occidental Petroleum Corporation[Oxy]but there are some problems that we are still discussing with the Oasis Group,’ he said. ‘They would like to remain for a very long time. We would like to give them a short term or better terms for us.’ Earlier this year, Oxy resumed operations in the country. The Oasis Group also includes Amerada Hess, Marathon Oil Corporationand ConocoPhillips.

Shatwan also appeared to cast doubt on another exploration and production sharing agreement (EPSA) licensing round, which had been expected in the first quarter of 2006. The minister said that it was not certain that there would be another EPSA round and suggested that development and production sharing agreements (DPSAs), which provide access to fields already producing oil, could be offered, with priority given to local companies. Analysts had not been expecting a DPSA round until 2007.