Iraq's parliament has ruled that three mobile operators must pay $2.85 billion in licence fees and fines within a month, overturning a deal allowing them to pay over five years, lawmakers and officials said on Thursday.
The ruling late on Wednesday could reinforce investor worries about unclear regulations over who controls the telecommunications sector, one of the fastest growing industries in a country pulling back from years of war.
Iraq's Ministry of Communications and the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), an independent body linked to parliament, both oversee the telecoms sector, but they are usually at odds over who has the final word on regulation.
Iraq's parliament voted late on Wednesday to recommend Kuwait operator Zain (ZAIN.KW), Asiacell, an affiliate of Qatar Telecom (QTEL.QA) (Qtel), and Korek, part-owned by France Telecom SA (FTE.PA), pay all the $2.85 billion within a month.
But in a reflection of the murkiness of regulations, officials and lawmakers gave conflicting interpretations on whether the vote was binding because the companies had struck a deal with the previous government to pay that amount over five years.
The payment covers the cost of their operating licences in Iraq, interest for delayed payments and fines.
Iraqi lawmakers seek $2.85 bln from telecom firms