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Libya officials in talks over El Sharara protest threat-sources

Source: Reuters - Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:52 GMT
Author: Reuters
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TRIPOLI, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Libyan authorities were in negotiations on Wednesday with protesters threatening to restart a blockade of the southern El Sharara oilfield, where protests cut output for two months last year, tribal and National Oil Corp (NOC) sources said.

The restart of El Sharara two weeks ago, with its production back to 328,000 barrels per day (bpd), helped push Libya's crude exports up to around 510,000 bpd after months of protests and strikes across the industry.

Tribal protesters at El Sharara, who demand greater local authority for the Tuareg minority, agreed at the start of the month to call off protests. But they set a deadline for the government to meet demands, and talks were still ongoing, NOC and local sources said.

"The government gave promises to the protesters, and they didn't meet demands in the specified time," Mowlai Godiedi, a Tuareg representative, told Reuters. "They might try to close the oil field, but the government is still negotiating with them."

NOC officials and workers at the western Zawiya export terminal and refinery, which are fed by the El Sharara field, said production continued for the moment.

Armed protesters still control oil terminal ports in the east of Libya, cutting off around 600,000 bpd of export capacity as they demand more political autonomy and a greater share of the OPEC country's petroleum wealth.

Earlier this month, Libya said its navy had opened fire to turn away a tanker that approached to illegally load crude at one of the eastern ports in the hands of the protesters.

Attempts to mediate an end to the eastern port protest have gone nowhere for six months.

Two years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the port standoff is the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's fragile government as it struggles to control former militias and rebels. (Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Jason Neely)

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