| BAGHDAD, June 3
BAGHDAD, June 3 More than 100 Iraqi lawmakers
have signed a request to summon the oil minister for a
parliamentary grilling about sluggish oil exports and corruption
allegations in the ministry, deputies said on Wednesday.
The request to question Hussain al-Shahristani was signed by
117 deputies and handed in this week to the office of
parliamentary speaker Ayad al-Samarai, parliamentary oil and gas
committee secretary Jabir Khalifa Jabir said.
It is unclear when Shahristani is to appear although the
speaker's office said a date could be set next week. The
minister has welcomed what he says would be an opportunity to
explain his ministry's achievements.
"Recently Iraqi oil production and exports have seen
declines despite Iraq's huge reserves," Jabir said.
"Not one refinery has been built in recent years. With the
drop in oil prices, Iraq was supposed to increase production.
But it did not happen and this is a failure of the oil
Iraq sits on the world's third largest oil reserves, but
they are underexploited after decades of war, sanctions and
underinvestment. Production of 2.3-2.4 million barrels per day
is lower than it was before the 2003 U.S. invasion.
The Iraqi parliament has become far more assertive since
Samarai, a Sunni politician viewed as a foe of Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki, was picked as speaker in April.
Last month it summoned the trade minister, an ally of
Maliki's, for questioning over nepotism and corruption. The
minister, Abdul Falah al-Sudany, resigned soon afterwards and
was arrested last Saturday as he tried to fly to Dubai.
Jabir, a member of the Fadhila party, a Shi'ite group that
is not part of Maliki's Shi'ite alliance, said parliamentarians
also wanted to quiz Shahristani about alleged corruption in the
ministry and about oil contracts Jabir said were illegal.
He said only deputies from the prime minister's Dawa party
and from Shahristani's independent bloc had declined to join the
call to summon him for questioning.
Shahristani earlier this week said he would be happy to go
"I am proud of what the ministry of oil has achieved during
this period," he told U.S.-funded al-Hurra television.
"Even ordinary Iraqi citizens have noticed the change in
their lives compared to when they used to spend long hours and
even whole nights trying to obtain gasoline."
Iraq became self-sufficient in refined gasoline this year.
It used to spend $5 billion a year importing gasoline.
A Dawa deputy said the push to summon the minister had
nothing to do with his record.
"These accusations are 100 percent politically motivated,"
said the lawmaker, Hassan al-Sneid.
(Writing by Michael Christie; Editing by William Hardy)