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Swedish Explorer Lundin Petroleum Sets Eyes on Somaliland
Garowe, Somalia, 14 Feb 2008 - Sweden-based Lundin Petroleum has shown interest in exploring for oil and natural gas in Somalia's northern breakaway region of Somaliland, a local paper reported.
The Somaliland Times, an English-language weekly based in Hargeisa, quoted an official at the Ministry of Water and Minerals acknowledging that Lundin company representatives approached the Somaliland government.
Ahmed Ibrahim Sultan, the ministry's director-general, said Somaliland did not award an exploration license to Lundin, but that there has been informal contact between the two sides.
Apparently, the Lundin representatives told Mr. Sultan that the aforementioned company has "no association" with Canada-based Africa Oil Corp. or the junior Australian explorer, Range Resources, Ltd.
Africa Oil and Range Resources are partners in a controversial 2005 exploration deal with Somalia's semiautonomous region of Puntland, a major rival to Somaliland's independence hopes.
Before August 2007, Africa Oil was registered under the trade name Canmex Minerals Corporation, a company whose founder and longtime president is Lukas H. Lundin.
Mr. Lukas Lundin stepped down as Canmex president on October 17, 2007, six days after Canmex signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Range Resources, giving the former an 80% stake in the Puntland exploration project.
Furthermore, the Sydney Morning-Herald reported in January 2007 that Abalone Capital is a shareholder with Canmex (now Africa Oil). Abalone has direct links to the Lundin family, according to the paper.
Mr. Lukas Lundin is also currently a member of Lundin's Board of Directors, according to the Lundin company Web site.
In January, Ethiopian newspaper Addis Fortune reported that Lundin Petroleum is "active" in Sudan and the Somaliland region.
Efforts to reach Lundin company officials were unsuccessful, but the Swedish explorer signed a contract in 2007 with the government of neighboring Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government awarded Lundin Petroleum exploration rights in the Ogaden, a Somali-inhabited region suffering under the army's crackdown on separatist rebels.
In April 2007, 74 people were killed when Somali rebels loyal to the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) raided a Chinese-run oil field in Ogaden region.
The ONLF later justified the attack, saying that the Ethiopian federal government is "unrepresentative" of the people in the Ogaden.
But the deadly attack underscored the dangers of exploration in the Horn of Africa, a region mired in ethnic conflicts and political instability.
Unrecognized Somaliland, which unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991, has enjoyed relative peace and is governed by a constitution, with a president, its own flag, currency and armed forces.
But the breakaway republic has been entangled in a violent dispute with Puntland over their unofficial border since 2002.
Source: Garowe Online