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Kazakh PM warns investors over oil fields

Latest update : 2008-02-07

The Kazakh PM Karim Masimov has warned that the state could seize oil fields and mineral deposits from foreign investors, in the wake of disputes involving Western oil majors such as ENI and Chevron.

ASTANA - Kazakhstan, fresh from a bitter
row with Western oil companies over a Caspian oilfield, wants to
build up its weight further in its energy sector, the Central
Asian state's president said on Wednesday.
 

Kazakhstan reinforced its increasingly assertive role in oil
diplomacy last month when it doubled its stake in the huge
Kashagan oilfield and stripped Italy's Eni of its leading role
in the world's biggest oil find in three decades.
 

Its actions have alarmed foreign investors who see them as
part of the growing global trend of resource nationalism.
 

In his annual state of the nation address, Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbayev called on the state to play a more active
role in energy matters.
 

"We are consistently strengthening state influence in the
strategically important energy sphere," he said. "You have all
witnessed that we raised Kazakhstan's role in developing
Kashagan.... We will continue our work in that direction."
 

The steppe nation, roughly the size of Western Europe, lies
on some of the world's biggest energy and metals deposits.
 

Although it has drawn billions of dollars of foreign
investment since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991,
Kazakhstan has toughed its oil policy towards foreign players
over past years, emboldened by booming oil and gas prices.
 

An ex-Soviet satellite state that was once Moscow's nuclear
test site, it now seeks to mould an increasingly independent
foreign policy, keeping both Russia and the West at arms length.
 

"Whatever they say, we have our own path of development,"
Nazarbayev said in his speech. "We are not behind anyone in
terms of human rights or freedom. We will measure all our
further steps by the stability of our nation."
 

Kazakhstan set alarm bells ringing further last year by
passing legislation empowering the government to unilaterally
break oil contracts. It also wants to impose an oil export duty
from 2009 to stabilise supplies on the domestic market.
 

Nazarbayev's key goal is to turn Kazakhstan into one of the
world's 10 biggest crude producers by 2017. But he also wants to
build a technologically advanced and diverse economy.
 

"The main element of the oil and gas sector is a stronger
state role as an influential participant in the international
energy market," he said. "It is really important because it
helps us enter global markets with value-added products."
 

Date created : 2008-02-07

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