- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) At the world's biggest gathering of oil executives here, talk of Iraq is giving participants the jitters.

"No one here will talk about Iraq" snapped one Kuwaiti executive at the World Petroleum Congress, signaling it was taboo to comment publicly on the Bush administration's rising vitriol against Saddam Hussein.

In private, however, U.S.-Iraqi relations are dominating this 59-nation gathering as President Bush prepares to argue his case next week against the Iraqi dictator before the U.N. General Assembly.

Many oil experts recalled how the Persian Gulf war saw crude prices shoot up to $41 a barrel, albeit briefly, translating into higher prices at the pump and for home-heating oil. They wonder again about prices today.

"Nobody wants war," said Yusuf Baba, a Nigerian oil executive. "This would be an unnecessary conflict."

"Going by previous wars, including the Gulf war, oil prices may rise and that will have a global effect," Mr. Baba warned.

Saudi Arabian producers, who control a fourth of the world's proven reserves, sought to reassure this conference that they can ratchet up oil production come what may.

Oil prices recently hit $30 a barrel over U.S. talk of war against Iraq.

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