BAGHDAD (AP) — A senior Iraqi oil ministry official says U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil has expressed an interest in pulling out of a major oil field development project in the country’s south.

The comments by the ministry’s licensing and contracts chief, Abdul-Mahdi al-Ameedi, mark the first official confirmation of Exxon’s desire to exit the 8.6 billion barrel West Qurna Phase 1 project. He says the company wants to sell “its whole share or part of it to other companies and leave West Qurna.”

Irving, Texas-based Exxon has not commented on the possibility that it might leave the project, even as rumors swirled in recent weeks.

The firm irked Iraq’s central government when it signed up to hunt for oil in the country’s self-ruled Kurdish region late last year.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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