Excerpts from this Sydney Morning Herald article :
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, warned BHP Billiton that pushing for control of an Iraqi oilfield straight after invasion would be "very sensitive" because the US-led coalition had made it clear "there would not be blood for oil".
Despite this Mr Downer agreed he would raise the company's claim over the huge Halfayah oilfield with Washington and the head of the post-war occupation government in Iraq, Paul Bremer, according to documents released yesterday by the Cole inquiry into the Oil for Food scandal.
A highly confidential record of the meeting between Mr Downer and BHP Billiton executives written by the Department of Foreign Affairs details their discussion of the project in London in May 2003, only weeks after the Saddam Hussein government fell.The document reveals an extraordinary effort by BHP Billiton to get its share of the Halfayah oilfield, one of the richest in the country, by lobbying the key players in postwar Iraq.
The executives told Mr Downer the company had already lobbied Arthur Sinodinos, the chief adviser to the Prime Minister, John Howard, and were about to approach Downing Street and the US Vice-President Dick Cheney.
In a frank assessment of the power structure under the occupation government in Baghdad, the executives told Mr Downer they had a key contact there, the former boss of Shell Oil in America, Philip Carroll, who had been hand-picked by the White House to advise the new Iraqi oil minister. Mr Carroll also had a number of Iraqi exiles with him who had worked for the Iraqi Oil Ministry."The Australian Government had said sincerely that it had not joined coalition forces on the basis of oil," Mr Downer is recorded saying. "Wise judgement suggested it was the Iraqis themselves who needed to be awarding the oil contracts.
"That said, Mr Downer agreed he would raise the matter both in Washington and in Baghdad with Paul Bremer. He would also have it raised with the Oil Ministry in Baghdad."
The document also clearly sets out of the first time that real relationship between BHP Billiton and the controversial company Tigris, its joint venture partner in Iraq.
Tigris has been accused in evidence to the Cole inquiry of being involved in a major fraud in the UN's Oil For Food program to assist Australia's wheat trader, AWB.
According to the document, Mr Harley told Mr Downer: "Tigris was responsible for maintaining relationships with [Saddam Hussein's] Iraq by working Oil for Food projects until a normal political situation could be established in Iraq.
"This arrangement was judged by all parties to give Australia the maximum chance of securing the Halfayah field investment."
The Cole inquiry also released a bundle of new documents from AWB and the UN supporting evidence to the Cole inquiry that AWB knowingly paid hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime to maintain its wheat contracts in Iraq.
Several Iraqi documents written by Saddam Hussein's officials between August and December 2000 detail orders to Iraqi ministers to collect kickbacks and fees on humanitarian shipments to Iraq under the UN Oil for Food program and transfer the money back into government coffers.