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The biggest ever sale of oil assets will take place today, when the Iraqi government puts 40bn barrels of recoverable reserves up for offer in London.BP, Shell and ExxonMobil are all expected to attend a meeting at the Park Lane Hotel in Mayfair with the Iraqi oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani.
Access is being given to eight fields, representing about 40% of the Middle Eastern nation's reserves, at a time when the country remains under occupation by US and British forces.
Two smaller agreements have already been signed with Shell and the China National Petroleum Corporation, but today's sale will ignite arguments over whether the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a "war for oil" that is now to be consummated by western multinationals seizing control of strategic Iraqi reserves.