And so the debate about Iraq’s oil wrangles on.

The New York Times reports that a senior US State Department official in Baghdad has said the first American oil contract in Iraq – that of the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas with the Kurdistan Regional Government, was at “cross purposes” with the stated United States foreign policy of strengthening the country’s central government.

“We believe these contracts have needlessly elevated tensions between the K.R.G. and the national government of Iraq,” the official said.

Meanwhile Iraq’s oil Minister has reiterated that oil and gas deals signed after February 2007 between foreign firms and the Kurdish regional government are illegal and the crude cannot legally be exported.

So far the KRG has announced deals with Hunt Oil, Impulse Energy, and United Arab Emirate’s Dana Gas  “All these contracts have no legal base and do not fit with the existing laws, nor with the draft which has been agreed”, Iraq’s Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told the Reuters news agency.

He said only Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organisation has the right to export crude.”They have no right to take any of Iraq’s oil without the approval of the Iraqi government and they cannot export from any of Iraq’s export points,” he added. “Any other way of exporting crude is illegal and is considered smuggling.”