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Not the right time to explore in Somalia, says oil minister
BAIDOA, Somalia Oct 16 - Somalia's petroleum minister says he does not believe it is the "right time" to explore for natural resources in the East African country torn apart by 17 years of civil war.
Oil Minister Abdullahi Yusuf Mohamed " Harare" told Garowe Online in an exclusive interview that the conditions on the ground in Somalia are not ready for oil exploration.
"In many parts of the country [Somalia] there is insecurity. Foreign companies and their employees are the people who will be coming and it is a heavy responsibility to assure their safety," Minister Harare said.
He pointed out that it is imperative that foreign oil companies who hold exploration contracts with the former Somali government meet with representatives from the ministry of energy and petroleum, which he leads.
Such meeting is necessary to see "if there is need to amend [past contracts] or adjust them to fit modern times," he said.
He said the interim government prioritizes past agreements and will give foreign firms who hold prior contracts time to mobilize efforts to commence operations in Somalia.
But if the companies fail to comply within the agreed upon period of time, the government reserves the right to take "appropriate action," Minister Harare warned.
Harare said some Western oil firms who old exploration contracts in Somalia have contacted the government. He cited Shell Company whose representatives approached Somali officials in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004 weeks after the United Nations-backed transitional federal government was established.
The Somali oil minister first expressed his stance while speaking to lawmakers in the southwestern Somali town of Baidoa, where the country's federal parliament is based.
Lawmakers have been grilling Cabinet ministers with questions regarding financial accountability and the various ministries' operations.
Minister Harare spoke at length about his ministry's plans to bring electrical power across Somalia by utilizing water, solar and wind energy. He said the city of Baidoa will be the first to benefit from the ministry's electrical project.
Exploration is a controversial issue in Somalia where many believe it has led to serious divisions between government leaders.
Observers say it is easy to see Minister Harare's point, especially in light of renewed armed hostilities in northern Somalia between Somaliland and Puntland regions.
Many of the Western firms who hold contracts were granted exploration blocks in north Somalia, a relatively peaceful area where residents now fear the outbreak of full-scale clan war.
Source: Garowe Online