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East Libya separatists set Dec 15 deadline for oil deal

Source: Reuters - Tue, 10 Dec 2013 03:28 PM
Author: Reuters
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(Details, quotes, background)

TRIPOLI, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Leaders of a movement seeking autonomy for Libya's eastern Cyrenaica region said on Tuesday they could allow oil exports to resume on Dec. 15 from several ports if Tripoli meets their demands and allows the region to take its share of crude.

The heavily armed tribal movement, which has blocked the ports to demand a bigger share of Libya's oil wealth and autonomy for Cyrenaica, will sell crude on its own if the government does not come through, the leaders said.

There was no immediate reaction from Tripoli, which has so refused to recognize a self-declared eastern government after the movement seized the Es-Sider and Ras Lanuf ports and other facilities in the oil-rich east.

The movement is made up of tribesmen and fighters who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and now demand a federal system that would share power between the Cyrenaica, the west and southern Fezzan similar to the political system in the kingdom before Gaddafi,

"Oil exports will resume (on Dec. 15) under three conditions," Ibrahim al-Jathran, an autonomy leader, told a news conference broadcast by al-Naba station.

He said the Tripoli government needed to form an independent committee to investigate claims of oil sale corruption and another committee to group all three Libyan regions to share the oil wealth.

"The Brega (Cyrenaica in Arabic) will take its rights as guaranteed by the oil-sharing law of 1958," he said, while supporters cheered.

Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, head of Jathran's self-declared government, told Reuters by phone the movement was ready to sell crude on its own from Dec. 15 if Tripoli did not meet the demands.

"We have the contacts with the firms to sell it," he said.

Libya is facing turmoil as the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan struggles to rein in militias and tribes who ousted Gaddafi but have kept their weapons and now control parts of the desert country.

Output is at a fraction of its 1.4 million barrels a day measured in July, drying up export revenue badly needed to keep the country running. Oil is the main source of funds for the budget and dollars needed for food imports. (Reporting by Feras Bosalum and Ulf Laessing; editing by Jason Neely and Jane Baird)

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