Iraqi hopes on oil sales

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IRAQI newspapers yesterday forecast a quick return for oil exports, which have been kept off the market since the 1990 Gulf crisis.

'Reports confirm that Iraq will soon return to oil market,' al-Iraq, a newspaper published by pro-government Kurdish factions, said in a front-page headline.

The comments were the first in the Iraqi media on the upcoming talks on Wednesday with the United Nations and run counter to coverage of previous rounds, where the Iraqi press tried to discourage high expectations that the UN embargo would be lifted.

Although they did not quote Iraqi sources, their coverage of foreign news reports predicting a return to the market is seen as an official endorsment of the comments.

Iraq's return would be likely to depress oil prices, which are already under pressure because of falling demand.