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Libya's Hariga port stays shut as oil deadlock drags on

Source: Reuters - Mon, 30 Dec 2013 05:30 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Port shut since August

* Closure stops two reopened oilfields exporting

* Officials stay hopeful talks will solve deadlock (Adds talks, background)

TRIPOLI, Dec 30 (Reuters) - An eastern oil port, which officials had said was to open soon, remained shut on Monday, as the paralysis of Libya's oil sector continued, caught in a struggle between Tripoli and the regions.

Hariga has been shut since August due to an occupation by local people. The 110,000 barrels per day oil port was still closed but officials were "looking forward to hearing good news," National Oil Corp spokesman Mohamed al-Harari said.

Militias, tribesmen and civil servants have seized ports and oilfields to press for political or financial demands, drying up oil output to less than 250,000 bpd from 1.4 million bpd in July. Oil is the main source for the budget and to fund food imports.

Libya's southern Sarir and Messla oilfields were operational but could not pump crude to Hariga as tanks at the port were full, Harari said.

An oil official on Friday said the port, in Tobruk, would reopen within days in the latest in a series of announcements about bringing the closure of ports to an end.

The government has tried to negotiate with protesters at Hariga and also put pressure on tribal leaders to persuade an armed autonomy group to lift the blockage of the Ras Lanuf, Es-Sider and Zueitina ports, previously accounting for 600,000 bpd.

But autonomy leader Ibrahim Jathran said at the last minute that talks with Tripoli to get a greater share of oil revenues for the east had failed.

State news agency Lana said a delegation of activists, civil society figures and "wise men" met some of the port strikers to stress the need for a "peaceful dialogue".

It quoted a representative from Jathran's movement as saying the government needed to investigate claims of oil corruption, form a committee made up of the three Libyan regions east, west and south and distribute oil sales based on a law from 1958 when the country was kingdom.

Zeidan has refused to recognize his movement but has said the government had investigated corruptions claims in the past and was willing to do so again.

Zeidan said on Wednesday tribal leaders would make a new attempt to lift the port blockages but warned that the government would not wait long before taking unspecific measures.

Jathran's and other militias involved in oil strikes in the east and other parts of the country helped topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but have kept their weapons, fuelling concerns about instability in the North African country.

Zeidan's government is trying to rein in the militias by offering financial incentives to join the nascent regular forces which are no match for battle-hardened civil war fighters.

Some of the militias have joined the army or police but many fighters in practise report to their commanders, not the weak government. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; editing by William Hardy)

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