updated 6/20/2004 1:39:33 AM ET 2004-06-20T05:39:33

Oil flowed to a southern port Sunday after crews completed key repairs on a pipeline sabotaged last week by insurgents, a state run-oil company official said.

Exports of between 800,000 and 900,000 barrels a day are expected to resume Sunday morning as soon as the oil arrives at the port -- a process that could take six hours, an official of the Southern Oil Company said on condition of anonymity.

Repairs were completed before dawn Sunday on the smaller of two pipelines damaged Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.

"It is expected that exports will resume this morning," the official said.

Iraqi officials halted exports of crude oil Wednesday after sabotage attacks damaged the two southern lines. The pipelines serve as the main artery for carrying the oil to offshore terminals in the Gulf, and transport over 1.5 million barrels a day.

The larger of the two lines suffered more damage and repairs are expected to last as many as six days, said the official.

Iraq's other major export route for crude -- a pipeline from the oil-rich northern region near Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan -- has been a frequent target of saboteurs and has operated infrequently and at a much reduced rate since the U.S.-led invasion. The most recent attack on the northern pipeline occurred last month.

Iraq has the world's second-largest oil reserves. But years of war, U.N. sanctions and mismanagement have left Iraq with dilapidated and obsolete oil facilities, and Iraqis have failed to restore crude exports to prewar levels of more than 2 million barrels a day.

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