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Russia's Gazprom Neft still interested in Kurdistan-source

MOSCOW, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Gazprom Neft , the oil arm of Russia's top natural gas producer Gazprom , is still interested in Kurdistan's oil, a Gazprom Neft source said, rebutting reports it had frozen projects in the Iraqi province.

In August, Gazprom Neft acquired interests in two blocks in Iraq's Kurdistan region, after similar moves by international rivals angered the central Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The International Oil Daily cited Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi as saying Baghdad received a letter from Gazprom, in which the company said it had frozen the contract with Kurdistan.

"Gazprom Neft is still working on these projects. The company keeps its interest in Kurdistan," a Gazprom Neft source told Reuters.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment.

Gazprom Neft already has a project in Iraq, near the Iranian border, where it expects to produce about 15,000 barrels per day from 2013.

Baghdad was angered by the plans of some international majors, including ExxonMobil , to tap oil and gas in the semi-autonomous region. The central government says the deals are illegal.

Later on Wednesday Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow where they may discuss energy issues.

Russia said on Tuesday it had signed $4.2 billion worth of arms deals with Iraq.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Jason Bush and David Holmes)

((vladimir.soldatkin@thomsonreuters.com)(+7 495 775 12 42)(Reuters Messaging: vladimir.soldatkin.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: GAZPROM IRAQ/OIL