In a move pointing toward an easing of world oil shortages, Iraq has indicated that it plans to increase its oil production by pledging substantial additional supplies for France.
The Iraq move, coupled with the recent Saudi Arabian pledge to increase production by a million barrels a day, could go a long way toward alleviating world shortages estimated by exports to range from 1 to 2 million barrels a day.
France has received an Iraqi pledge of an additional 100,000 per day, French officials said. It comes on top of another 100,000 barrels a day increase that France got from Iraq in March. The Iraqis are also said to be negotiating increased deliveries to Japan and Italy.
Indications of greater oil availability coincided with a statement today by the Paris-based International Energy Agency asserting that its 20 industrial member-nations will cut their projected oil consumption by 2 million barrels a day three months sooner than had been originally projected - by Oct. 1, rather than by Dec. 31.
The IEA nations, including the United States, are also expected by the end of summer to complete their heavy stockpilling of oil to replace the supplies taken from their strategic reserves to make up for the shortages created last winter when Iran stopped producing.
IEA director general Ulf Lantzke said today that member-nations had been stockpiling at the rate of 1.9 million barrels a day during the three months starting April 1. He called that "a bit too fast."
International oil consultants and Energy Department officials in Washington, however, were quick to point out that if a new round of political turmoil were to erupt in Iran, forcing another shutdown in oil exports, world oil markets could again be thrown into chaos.
Iraq is currently producing more oil than had been generally realized - 3.5 million barrels a day instead of the 3.2 or 3.3 million barrels Western oilmen thought they were producing. The Iraqis informed a French delegation headed by Prime Minister Raymond Barre of their higher production level when he visited Baghdad this week, French officials said.
Western oilmen close to Iraq and IEA analysts estimate that Iraq can already produce 4 million barrels a day, and they think this can be increased relatively fast.
Iraq has historically understated its oil reserves in data officially released. Intelligence and Middle Eastern oil sources, however, say that Iraq has prospects 3 times greater than the 32 billion barrel official reserves, amounting to 100 billion barrels or more, giving Iraq the second largest potential within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia.
During the last year, Iraq has also become more moderate in its pricing policy within OPEC and has distanced itself from demands imposed by the cartel's most hawkish member, Libya.
French oilmen say they think Iraq can double its present capacity in less than a decade, steadily adding small new amounts.
France is a particularly favored oil client of Iraq because of French willingness to supply the Iraqis with practically any weapons France is capable of producing, just as Iraq is seeking to get out from under dependence on the Soviet Union as its major arms supplier.
About $250 million worth of firm orders for the Iraqi army, navy and air force are reliably understood to be almost ready for signing. Discussions are continuing on still other Franco-Iraqi arms deals, and some reports speculate about total sales as high as $1.5 billion.
According to official sources here, the deal that is nearest signing is for a squadron of 36 Mirage F-1 advanced jet fighter-bombers in addition to a Mirage squadron that was aleady being delivered.
Reliable resources say the French are also preparing to supply major reinforcement for the Iraqi navy that will make it a major force in the Persian Gulf.
Naval orders soon to be signed include two 3,200-ton anti-submarine frigates, six Cherbourg-class, missile-launching high-speed patrol boats and an unspecified number of Super-Frelon helicopters equipped with laser-guided AF-35 missiles against submarines and surface vessels.
The latter item would necessitate France reopening the production line, and the French are asking Iraq to finance the operation in advance.
The Iraqis are also said by the sources to be getting ready to make a large order for AMX 30 medium tanks.
Last year Iraq was producing only 2.6 millions barrels a day and Iraqi officials were saying publicly that was all they needed to get the revenue for their development projects. Since then, Iraq has embarked on a far more ambitious foreign policy in reaction to Egypt's signature of peace accords with Israel and to the threats Iraq perceives from the Iranian revolution next door.
Analysts say that Iraqi hostility to the Israel-Egyptian peace has been translated into an ambititious attempt to replace Egypt as the political leader of the Arab world and that this has created far greater Iraqi financial needs.
It has also led Iraq to back off from some of its most radical positions in an apprent attempt to make itself acceptable to Arab moderates, especially Saudi Arabia, whose monarchial regime was once one of the prime targets of Iraqi revolutionary propaganda.
In their accounts of Barre's ten hours of conversations over three days with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, French officials stressed Iraqi expressions of concern that Iran's Islamic revolution might eventually turn Communist and the stated Iraqi distaste for Soviet interference in Afghanistan country into the Communist camp.
The French said that the Iraqis made a point that they want to maintain good state-to-state relations with the Soviet Union and that they think there can be no overall Middle Eastern peace settlement without Soviet participation.
A striking example of Iraq's need for more money to conduct its more activist and moderate foreign policy came in the pledge the French said the Iraqis made to them that they would help the West come to the financial rescue of hard-pressed Turkey, Iraq's western neighbor.
The live prospect of the Iraqi revolutionary government aiding the Atlantic Alliance to prop up its eastern-most member demonstrates how far Iraqi thinking has progressed since it was considered the Arab country closest to Moscow.
This also raises the prospect of closer Western oil relations with a country that is considered to have the best propects in the Middle East of new oil finds. Another reason for Iraqi willingness to produce more oil, French analysts think, is that they are now far more certain that they have much more oil in the ground than their officially declared reserves.
Barre said that the French contract to provide Iraq with Nuclear research reactors for the "atomic university" outside Baghdad would be honored in late 1981 or early 1982.
The reactors were recently sabotaged shortly before they were to be delivered to Iraq. Informed sources consider that Israeli commandos are the prime suspects.
French official sources said that Paris will stand by its contract to deliver weapons-grade 93-percent enriched uranium to power the reactors. France has been developing a process to power such reactors with 7 percent enriched uranium, much too weak for use in nuclear weapons.