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BAGHDAD, May 8 (Reuters) - Iraq oil minister Thamer Ghadhban said on Wednesday he expects his ministry to sign an initial deal with Exxon Mobil and PetroChina "very soon", but did not give a specific date.
"We have managed to take a step forward in resolving some lingering issues in the deal," Ghadhban said at an oil ministry event.
Once the talks end, the initial deal will be studied by the ministerial energy committee before referring it to cabinet for approval, Ghadhban added.
On Tuesday, Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said Iraq was close to signing the 30-year energy agreement with both companies, for $53 billion.
Iraq expects to make $400 billion over the 30 years the deal is in effect, the prime minister said.
The southern mega-project involves the development of the Nahr Bin Umar and Artawi oilfields and an increase in production from the two fields to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from around 125,000 bpd now, Abdul Mahdi said.
Ghadhban said on Wednesday the deal with Exxon and PetroChina would allow Iraq to generate 750 million standard cubic feet of gas from the two oilfields per year.
Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; writing by Raya Jalabi; editing by Jason Neely