Aberdeen-based oil company Ramco received the go-ahead in February for a joint venture –the Mesopotamia Petroleum Corporation – chaired by Ramco’s executive chairman Steve Remp, to drill wells for a number of the country’s state-owned oil companies.

UK foreign secretary David Miliband said the $400m agreement was an important message to UK companies that “Iraq is open for ­business”.

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The Mesopotamia Petroleum Corporation will hold 49% of the joint venture and the government-owned Iraqi Drilling Company will own the remaining portion.

The joint venture was agreed as the Iraqi government agrees a framework which will allow oil companies to receive stakes of 75% rather than 49% if their bids win, a move which will encourage oil giants such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell to be less risk averse about investing in Iraq.