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Iraq Hopes To Sign Deals With Oil Firms

Iraq hopes to start signing contracts with Western firms to explore and develop Iraq’s vast oil fields in the next two months, the oil minister said Sunday, adding that U.S. companies stand to miss out on the lucrative deals.

The minister, Safa Jawad al-Haboubi, acknowledged that foreigners - both Arabs and Westerners - are already working in Iraq on oil projects, despite a U.N. oil embargo. But he declined to give numbers or nationalities.

Al-Haboubi’s rare interview with Western journalists took place as Iraq was concluding a two-day international oil conference, its first since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. About 120 oil experts from more than 20 countries attended.

Iraq, with oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia, used the conference to emphasize its readiness to return to the oil market if U.N. sanctions are lifted.

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