Iraq wants Russians to replace Exxon at West Qurna-report
* Iraqi overture to be made to LUKOIL, Gazprom Neft - Nefte Compass
* LUKOIL says no plans to take over at West Qurna-1 * Putin supports Russia push for Iraqi oil
MOSCOW, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Iraq is considering replacing ExxonMobil with Russian companies at the supergiant West Qurna-1 oilfield, after the U.S. major angered Baghdad by venturing into Kurdistan, according to a media report citing industry sources.
The northern Kurdish region has riled Baghdad by signing deals with foreign oil majors, such as Exxon, Total and Chevron , contracts the central government rejects as illegal.
Nefte Compass, a weekly energy newsletter about the FSU and Eastern Europe, said on Thursday that Iraq is weighing whether to replace Exxon with Russia's LUKOIL and Gazprom Neft
- both already involved in the country.
It said that the proposal was due to be raised at a meeting this week between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The meeting took place on Wednesday, but no such offers - if they were made - have been made public.
A spokesman for Russia's second-largest crude producer LUKOIL, which operates West Qurna-2, said the company is not planning to increase its exposure in Iraq by acquiring a stake in West Qurna-1, reiterating the company's official line that it is satisfied with its portfolio in Iraq.
Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of the world's top natural gas producer Gazprom , declined to comment.
Sources have told Reuters that Russia's top oil company Rosneft , may team up with Exxon in Iraq after the two have struck a landmark agreement to jointly tap Arctic hydrocarbon riches and oil and gas in North America.
Rosneft also declined to comment on the possibility of entering Iraq.
On Wednesday, Putin, a vocal opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, called for Russia to strengthen its presence in the OPEC oil producer state at the meeting with al-Maliki.
Sources also said Gazprom Neft has no plans to freeze its projects in Kurdistan, it pledged to develop in August, refuting media reports. The company already has a project in Iraq, near the Iranian border, where it expects to produce about 15,000 barrels per day from 2013.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; additional reporting by Olesya Astakhova, editing by William Hardy)
Keywords: IRAQ RUSSIA/OIL