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Page added on March 29, 2008

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Vladimir Putin bids for Iraq oil stakes

Moscow has stepped up its attempts to become Washington’s main rival in the Middle East with an audacious attempt to win a large stake of Iraq’s oil wealth.

Glossing over his opposition to the American-led invasion and a prolonged period of poor relations with Baghdad, President Vladimir Putin wrote to Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, this week setting out the case for Russian investment in the energy sector.
The move comes at a time when Russia is aggressively expanding its influence in the Middle East, an offensive that some say echoes the Cold War competition for patronage once waged in the region by the Soviet Union and the United States.

In the past two years, Russia has signed significant arms and energy deals from the Levant to the Maghreb, causing jitters in Washington and concern across Europe.

On Tuesday Mr Putin, who steps down to become prime minister in May, signed a preliminary nuclear energy deal with Egypt that could also see Cairo become a major recipient of Russian arms.

Any oil deal with Iraq would significantly boost Russia’s ambitions to regain its lost superpower status.


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