Iraq's government has agreed on a plan to divide the country's oil wealth and open the industry to international investment, a move seen as necessary to a political settlement of the nearly four-year-old war, ministers announced Monday.

"This law will guarantee for Iraqis -- not just now, but for future generations, too -- complete national control over this natural wealth," Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

The draft law still faces a vote in Iraq's parliament, but the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad hailed Monday's agreement as a step toward a national settlement of the country's divisions.

Iraq's Constitution, adopted in 2005, declares that oil and gas reserves are "owned by all the people of Iraq."

But nearly all of that oil is concentrated in the Kurdish north and Shiite south, raising fears in the Sunni Arab provinces of northwestern and central Iraq -- the heart of the insurgency that has raged since 2003 -- that Sunni Iraqis would be shut out of the country's wealth.

"This law affirms ... all the revenues will be shared at the federal level and redistributed equitably among all Iraqis," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told CNN.


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