BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government said Saturday it has approved a contract with a British-Chinese consortium to develop a prized oil field in southern Iraq, a significant achievement for a country that has struggled to attract foreign investors despite its vast natural resource wealth.
The deal was the only one to emerge from a disappointing bidding round in June offering development rights for six oil and two gas fields.
Britain's BP PLC and its Chinese partner CNPC will develop the 17.8 billion barrel Rumaila field near Iraq's southern city of Basra.
The deal was approved late Friday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said, without providing further details.
Iraq has the world's third-largest known oil reserves, and crude exports are the country's most important source of revenue. But Iraq's daily output of 2.4 million barrels is far below the country's potential.
Violence: A suicide bomber driving a dynamite-laden truck destroyed a key bridge outside Ramadi on Saturday on a highway used by the departing U.S. military. There were no casualties. Separate attacks killed nine Iraqis, most of them security force members, police said.
Refugees: Britain's Home Office said Saturday that 30 Iraqis who had failed to get asylum in the United Kingdom and were sent back to Iraq were not allowed to remain in Iraq after landing in Baghdad on Thursday, while an additional 10 were allowed to disembark. An official at the Baghdad airport said the roughly 30 passengers returned to Britain were minority Kurds who were too afraid to remain in Iraq.
U.S. death TOTAL: As of Saturday, 4,349 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war. No new deaths were reported in the past week.