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Biden Presses Iraqi Kurds for Progress on Oil Law

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan Thursday to press Kurdish leaders to compromise on the controversial issue of sharing Iraq's oil wealth.

Biden met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, in the regional capital of Irbil.

During a joint news conference with Mr. Barzani, Biden said he believes the Kurdish leader is negotiating in good faith with the central government to resolve all outstanding issues.

The Kurds have been locked in bitter disagreement with Baghdad over control of oil and disputed territory in parts of northern Iraq, particularly the oil-rich region of Kirkuk.

Mr. Barzani repeated the Kurds' commitment to solve all problems within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.

The tensions have stalled passage of a hydrocarbon law that would define oil revenue sharing and clarify rules for foreign firms investing in Iraq's oil and gas fields.

Biden told leaders of Iraq's central government in Baghdad Wednesday that passage of the law is in Iraq's best interest. A senior U.S. official said Biden also made clear that the next round of bidding on oil concessions should be made on more generous terms to attract more outside interest.

The U.S. official said that only one of eight deals up for bidding earlier this year was taken. He said that even one other deal would mean $50 billion to $60 billion in additional investment in Iraq, $600 million in additional annual revenue, and tens of thousands of new jobs.

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