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Iraq's oil reserves increase to 153 billion barrels, oil minister says

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A general view of Tawke oil field north of Baghdad

A general view of Tawke oil field near Dahuk, 400 km (249 miles) north of Baghdad, June 27, 2009. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's oil reserves have increased to 153 billion barrels, from a previous estimate of 143 billion barrels, Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said on Sunday.

Iraq will ask the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to adopt the new figure as the official estimate for its reserves, he said in a statement.

The increased estimate is the result of appraisals and exploration carried out at seven oil fields in central and southern Iraq, he said.

Iraq is developing its oil reserves with the help of foreign companies, to make up for three and a half decades of conflict and international sanctions, starting with the 1980-1988 war against Iran.

Iraq's new proven reserves estimate brings it closer to Iran's 158 billion barrels. It is OPEC's second-largest producer, after Saudi Arabia.

Venezuela and Saudi Arabia lead OPEC's 14 members in terms of oil reserves, with 301 billion barrels and 266 billion barrels respectively, according to the organisation's website.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Mark Potter)