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Interview: Hussain Al-Shahristani

Dec. 17, 2013

People in Iraq live with the ever-present threat of violence. More than 7,000 civilians have died this year in terror attacks and other bloodshed. At the same time Iraq's oil sector is driving rapid growth. Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussain Al-Shahristani visited Tokyo to call for more Japanese investment. NHK WORLD's Daisuke Azuma asked him for the details.

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Hussain Al-Shahristani

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister

Shahristani says Iraq has big plans for its crude oil industry. It's already restored production to levels not seen for more than three decades. But now it's preparing to ramp it up further.

"For the coming year, we expect to increase our oil production to about four million barrels per day. And this is a large increase, more than five hundred thousand barrels per day from the current productions."

Some analysts say the shale gas production will expand in the US and other countries. But Shahristani says that will not drastically change the dynamics of global energy needs.

"It's good news that there are large discoveries of shale gas in the States. But as you know, the U.S. is the largest consumer of oil and gas in the world. So whatever is found there is going to be consumed there."

Iraq plans to triple oil productions by 2020. But Shahristani says the country can't do it alone.

"Quite frankly the South Koreans and Chinese were very early. And normally, the early birds get the first seeds. However, we have always had an open door for the Japanese companies."

"We are also moving and inviting for that matter, Japanese companies to come and invest in petrochemical, fertilizers, and energy intensive industries. And also use Iraq's potential for cheap raw materials, cheap fuel, skilled workers, geographic location and market size. To use Iraq as a manufacturing base not only for Iraq but also for the Middle Eastern market."

But safety remains a big concern. Shahristani says Iraq plans to enhance security along its border with Syria.

"We need to protect our people against terrorist attacks and our borders with Syria are open borders. And because there is a lot of violence in Syria, some of those weapons are crossing the border into Iraq. So we are looking for attack helicopters, surveillance planes and the kind to prevent any movement to terrorists across the border into the country."

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