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E.Libyan group says set to talk with govt on oil exports

Source: Reuters - Fri, 13 Dec 2013 05:55 PM
Author: Reuters
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TRIPOLI, Dec 13 (Reuters) - A group seeking autonomy for East Libya said it would negotiate with government officials on Saturday but if its demands are not met by Sunday for a greater share of the oil wealth, it would try to sell crude on its own.

On Tuesday the group had said it would end a seizure of three eastern ports, which previously accounted for around 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) of exports, if Tripoli allowed it to take a share of the oil revenue and investigated claims of oil corruption.

The group led by militia leader Ibrahim al-Jathran, has taken the Ras Lanuf, Es-Sider and Zueitina ports to press its demands, but pressure is rising to end the blockage, which has reduced exports to 110,000 bpd from more than 1 million bpd in July.

Oil exports are Libya's lifeline and almost sole source of the dollars needed to fund imports of wheat and other basic foodstuffs. The government has warned it will not be able to pay public salaries if oil strikes continue.

"We will hold talks with a government committee on Saturday," said Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, prime minister of Jathran's self-declared eastern government.

"If they agree on our demands, then the ports will reopen on Sunday. If they don't agree, then we'll insist on selling the oil without government coordination," he told Reuters by phone.

There was no immediate reaction from the central government.

Officials in Tripoli have previous refused to recognise the self-declared eastern government and warned the central government would attack any tanker trying to load oil at the seized ports.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said on Wednesday the government was in talks with tribal leaders in the east to get the ports reopened but refused to deal with al-Jathran's group.

The movement is campaigning for a federalist state that would share power and wealth between the eastern Cyrenaica, western Tripoli and southern Fezzan regions.

Libya's oil production was 220,095 bpd as of Wednesday, state news agency Lana said. Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi said exports were 110,000 bpd, while the rest is being used to keep two refineries running.

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