As the campaigners attack Shell in London (see below) it has been announced that the first crude oil pumped by a foreign company in Iraq in decades will flow into the global market next month.

DNO, a Norwegian oil company, will begin producing a small amount of oil from the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan, marking a symbolic return of foreign companies to Iraq after 35 years of state control.

But DNO’s announcement could add strain to relations between Iraq’s Kurdish authorities and the central government in Baghdad. DNO’s contract is with the local administration in the relatively peaceful north of Iraq, rather than with Baghdad. DNO’s contract may have to be amended once the country’s controversial oil law is finally agreed.

Helge Eide, DNO’s chief executive, said: “We are ready to pump. We never thought that we would be in a position to start producing oil from Kurdistan only two years after we commenced exploration.”