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Iraq Announces 2nd Oil Licensing Round

Iraq is opening up some of its most prized oil and gas fields to international developers in its second round of licensing since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani announced Wednesday that the 11 fields could increase production by 2.5 million barrels per day.

Two of the fields - the Majnoon and West Qurna - are believed to hold huge reserves of untapped oil.

Iraq announced its first bidding round for licensing six months ago.

The country has the world's third largest oil reserves, but sabotage and theft have seriously hampered output in recent years. Oil officials say improved security is helping this industry, which is crucial to the nation's economy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.