- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

LONDON (AP) Crude prices surged yesterday on market fears that the war in Iraq might take longer than some had anticipated and because of a disruption of supplies from Nigeria.
Stiffening resistance to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has undercut hopes for a brief war and an early rehabilitation of that country's oil industry. Iraq pumped 2.5 million barrels a day before fighting began and typically exported about four-fifths of that amount.
May contracts of North Sea Brent, Europe's benchmark crude, jumped $1.74 a barrel to $26.09 in late trading in London. Contracts of U.S. light, sweet crude for May delivery were trading $1.75 higher at $28.66 a barrel in New York.
Fighting around burning oil wells in southern Iraq's Rumeila oil field has driven out civilian oil-fire specialists working to quell the blazes, a top firefighter said. U.S.-led forces had previously thought the field's facilities were secure.
Kuwaiti firefighters claimed credit for putting out the first fire at a booby-trapped Iraqi well yesterday. Kuwait's senior firefighter, Aisa Bouyabes, said he believes his team and others can douse the six remaining fires in Iraq's Rumeila South oil field within two weeks.
Coalition forces have made a priority of securing Iraqi oil installations to prevent their sabotage by Iraqis.
Confusion persisted over the extent of any Iraqi plans to damage or destroy their southern oil facilities. British military sources said last week that almost all Iraqi oil facilities had been mined or booby-trapped, indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to blow up his entire economy.
Iraq's newspaper Al-Thawrah said on its Web site Sunday that this was a lie. "What is burning in that area is no more than artificial trenches filled with oil to be used as obvious methods of defense," the paper said.
Iraqis have sometimes ignited oil in trenches to create thick smoke to confuse their attackers. Iraq has 1,685 producing wells.

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