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    MOSCOW, MARCH 12, 2004. (RIA NOVOSTI). Chairman of the Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) international affairs committee Mikhail Margelov believes the signing of a memorandum on cooperation between LUKOIL and the Iraqi oil ministry is a turning point, an epoch-making event in the development of the Russo-Iraqi relations.

    According to him, the return of a major Russian company to Iraq is the beginning of the return of Russia as a whole to that country.

    "Certainly, there remained pitfalls in Russia-Iraq relations despite the signing of the memorandum," Margelov pointed out and added that giving a green light for Russian companies to return to Iraq does not remove issues related to specific projects and ensuring security.

    "Nevertheless, this document is crucial in mutual relations and, possibly, Russia and Russian companies will succeed in restoring pre-war contracts with Iraq in the near future, taking into account their historic and economic significance," the senator emphasized.

    LUKOIL and the Iraqi oil ministry signed a Memorandum on Mutual Understanding and Cooperation. LUKOIL head Vagit Alekperov said at a press conference in Baghdad on Thursday that the document was signed following his meeting with the Iraqi oil minister Muhammed Bahr al-Uloum.

    He also reported that a joint working group has been created to prepare proposals for LUKOIL participation in the oil and gas projects in Iraq.

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