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Hunt Oil CEO Denies Ties Aided Kurdish Deal: WSJ

Hunt Oil Co Chief Executive Ray Hunt said his ties to the Bush family and the Republican Party did not help his company cut a deal last month to explore for oil in Iraq's Kurdish region, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site on Wednesday, citing an interview with Hunt.

The government of the Kurdish region said last month it had signed a gas and oil production sharing contract with a unit of U.S.-based Hunt and Impulse Energy.

The agreement has been criticized by the Bush administration and Iraqi officials as undermining efforts to strengthen the country's central government, according to the article. Some critics also suggested Hunt was cashing in on his ties to President Bush, the report said.

According to the Journal, Hunt said, contrary to the State Department's assertion, the company received no U.S. government advice before striking a deal.

"The fact is, as a matter of policy, we never have and never will go to the government of the U.S. and ask the government's advice on anything we do from a business point of view," the Journal quoted Hunt as saying.

Hunt said Kurdish oil executives turned to the company because of its oil-development record in Yemen, according to the article.

"It's another example where we're able to move quickly when opportunity presents itself," Hunt told the Journal.

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