As leading Sunnis in Iraq’s parliament continue to snub Iraq’s controversial oil law, Australia has admitted that securing oil is a key factor behind its continued troop deployment in Iraq.

Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said that maintaining “resource security” in the Middle East was a priority for the government in Canberra. But he added that the main reason troops were still in the Gulf was to ensure that the humanitarian crisis there did not worsen.

Releasing the government’s review of its national security policy, Mr Nelson said that the supply of oil had influenced strategic planning. “The defence update we’re releasing today sets out many priorities for Australia’s defence and security, and resource security is one of them,” he said.

“Obviously the Middle East itself, not only Iraq but the entire region, is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world.”

It is the first time such an admission has been made and could influence the signing of Iraq’s oil law.