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ENERGY

ExxonMobil, Kurds ink deal over Baghdad’s objections

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — The Kurdish regional government has signed a deal with ExxonMobil Corp. to explore oil fields in northern Iraq, Kurdish officials said Sunday, putting them in sharp conflict with Iraq’s national government.

The government in Baghdad wants to control all energy contracts signed in Iraq. The deal makes ExxonMobil the first major oil company to do business in the Kurdish region in defiance of the central government’s wishes.

The deal was announced Sunday by Kurdish officials at an oil and gas conference in Irbil in comments carried on Kurdish television. “These deals are legal. There is no legal problem about them. We will go on with these deals,” Kurdish Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami said at the conference.

The Iraqi government on Saturday slammed the agreement, details of which were published Friday by the Financial Times.

“The Iraqi government will deal with any company that breaks its laws in the same way that it has dealt with similar companies in the past,” Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said.

CONSUMERS

U.S. senator threatens retailers’ layaway plans

ALBANY, N.Y. — The return of layaway plans this holiday shopping season is raising concern that the break from credit cards might actually cost consumers far more.

For example, a rock ‘n’ roll Elmo doll that requires a $5 layaway fee and a 10 percent down payment for a month can equal a credit card that charges more than 100 percent interest, Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, said Sunday.

Mr. Schumer is asking major retail associations to tell members to more clearly present their layaway fees to customers. He said if stores don’t better present the cost of layaway purchases, he will ask the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether the use of layaway is a deceptive or misleading business practice.

But it’s wrong to compare layaway fees to credit cards and the fees are already clear, a major retail association says.

“Layaway is not credit, period,” Brian A. Dodge of the Retail Industry Leaders Association said Sunday. “Layaway programs provide consumers with a responsible, low-cost alternative to credit cards that allow customers to buy an item that they want but the flexibility to pay for it over time without accumulating debt.”

FEDERAL RESERVE

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