Iraq has brought forward the date for oil companies to bid on exploring and developing nearly a dozen hydrocarbon-rich areas to April 15, instead of June.
Thursday's announcement by Abdul-Mahdi al-Ameedi, who heads the Oil Ministry's Licensing and Petroleum Contracts Department, took representatives of international companies by surprise.
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They say there isn't enough time now to study the offered contract and prepare bids. Al-Ameedi wouldn't offer an explanation for changing the date.
Last year, authorities offered nine exploration blocks in central and southern Iraq, including one in Iraq's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.
Al-Ameedi says two more blocks have been added.
Iraq looks to boost energy revenue to fund its post-war reconstruction after fighting the Islamic State group, as well as to shore up finances amid low oil prices.