The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq has announced four new oil exploration deals with international energy companies. The news is likely to upset the central government in Baghdad and the US.

Both have been pressing the Kurds to hold off negotiations until Iraq’s controversial Oil Law is passed, but it seems the Kurds are just going alone.

In the latest move, the Kurdish authorities have announced four exploration contracts and two refinery deals, worth around $800m (£400m), giving rights to look for oil under Kurdish territory.

French and Canadian companies are involved along with other foreign investors that have not yet been named. There has been no official reaction from either Baghdad or Washington but neither will be pleased, especially Bush who wants the Oil Law passed as soon as possible.