UPDATE 3-Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach replaces CEO
* CEO replaced by U.S.-educated engineer
* Algeria increasing oil, gas production
* Sonatrach seeks more flexibility with deals (Adds analyst and source comments)
By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS, March 20 (Reuters) - Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach has replaced Chief Executive Amine Mazouzi after less than two years in the job with Abdelmoumen Ould Kadour, the energy ministry said on Monday.
The surprise decision comes at a sensitive time for Sonatrach and Algeria, which began to increase oil and gas production last year after a prolonged period of stagnation and a lack of major foreign investment.
A statement from the ministry gave no reason for the change. Ould Kadour is an engineer who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and headed U.S.-Algerian firm Brown & Root Condor in the 1990s.
Energy Minister Noureddine Boutarfa called in a statement on Ould Kadour to "act with full responsibility and confidence to put in place the qualitative changes that allow Sonatrach to evolve and prosper in a calm business climate".
A source close to the new CEO said Sonatrach's priorities would be reducing production costs and resolving pending arbitration cases in an amicable way to gain the confidence of foreign partners. Continued...