Libya rebels say seeking to lift oil sanctions

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2011 3:55 PM
Libya rebels say seeking to lift oil sanctions

By Alexander Dziadosz

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A senior Libyan rebel official said on Monday rebels were in "active discussions" to have sanctions lifted on purchases of crude produced from east Libyan fields no longer in Muammar Gaddafi's control.

"We hope they will be lifted for the liberated areas as quickly as possible," Ali Tarhouni, a rebel official in charge of economic, financial and oil matters in rebel-held Benghazi, told Reuters. "Not with everybody, but with some countries."

A U.S. Treasury Department official said rebels could sell Libyan crude without being subject to U.S. sanctions if they conducted the transactions outside the National Oil Corporation and other sanctioned entities in Gaddafi's administration.

Tarhouni said most of the 100,000 to 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude the rebel-held eastern oil fields are capable of producing will be exported because the refining capacity in eastern areas is still relatively low.

On Sunday, Tarhouni said Gulf oil producer Qatar had agreed to market oil produced from east Libyan fields no longer under Gaddafi's control.

In the interview with Reuters on Monday, Tarhouni said the marketing deal with Qatar had been signed, but added:

"There is still some details to be worked out, some technical details -- the type of oil, the type of shipments." He said he expected a first oil shipment would be exported within a week but could not say where the shipment would go.

On Monday, Qatar became the first Arab country to recognize Libya's rebels as the people's sole legitimate representative, a move that may presage similar moves from other Gulf states.

U.N. diplomats on Monday said U.N. sanctions on Libya do not bar anti-government rebels from exporting Libyan oil as long as they bypass firms linked to Gaddafi.

FUEL SHORTAGES

Tarhouni said some areas in the rebel-held east faced fuel shortages, but the region as a whole was operating at about 70 percent of normal.

He said a team had inspected damage in the oil exporting terminal at Brega, recaptured by rebels over the weekend, and were trying to get liquid natural gas flowing for domestic use.

"They (the team) didn't really give me the time when they would start, but I believe the best scenario is that we will have a flow of liquid gas in the next 24 hours, maximum 48 hours," he said.

It was less clear when oil facilities at the Ras Lanuf terminal would resume operating, he said, although early signs were that the damage there was not as bad as some rebels had feared.

He said rebels had started staggering contracts for necessary oil byproducts such as gasoline over the last week, which should help assuage the shortages.

"My expectation is that we will have shortages, and it's going to be spotty in many areas. But my goal is to smooth it out as soon as we can. I think to really do this right, we're talking about two to three weeks to be operating on more like a normal capacity."

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia and David Gregorio)