25 August 2007

Somalia: Puntland Insists it Has the Right to Manage its Oil Wealth

Mogadishu — - Administrators of the semi autonomous province of Puntland in northeast Somalia stated that they would never abide by Somalia's parliament debate results over Puntland's oil deals with foreign firms.

The regional president, Adde Mussa, told Shabelle that his administration would not accept any results from Somalia's parliament if it would harm Puntalnd's natural resources rights.

Two years ago, the Puntland government signed a lucrative deal with Australia's Range Resources, giving the company exploratory rights to minerals and oil reserves in region. The clause in the interim government's oil bill nullifying any post-1990 deals would automatically cancel that deal and others being negotiated.

Puntland officials say they are concerned that the bill will divert power and potential wealth away from the region.

The province has been trying to thrive economically, making deals with foreign oil firms, despite Prime Minister Gedi's refusal to allow Puntland to be independent for the production of its natural resources.

Interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told reporters last week that no deal would be considered valid until the new legislation is enacted. He has urged foreign companies to negotiate only with the interim government.

The prime minister says even a deal interim President Abdullahi Yusuf recently concluded with a Chinese company to explore for oil and gas in Puntland is subject to the new law.

The second chief speaker of Somalia's transitional parliament, Osman Elmi Boqare, told Shabelle last week that the parliament received documents from the country's top leaders over oil contracts they signed with foreign oil companies.

Somali has had no effective central government since the ouster of former dictator, Siad Barre, in 1991.

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