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Libyan rebels, government agree to reopen two occupied oil ports

Source: Reuters - Sun, 6 Apr 2014 19:51 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Under deal two eastern ports to reopen on Sunday

* Further talks planned to reopen two other larger ports

* Rebels want more autonomy, bigger share of oil wealth

TRIPOLI, April 6 (Reuters) - Libya's government reached a deal with rebels on Sunday to reopen two occupied oil ports accounting for 200,000 barrels per day of crude exports in a major breakthrough to end an eight-month blockade.

Zueitina and Hariga ports - the two smallest of four terminals seized by rebels demanding more autonomy from Tripoli and a greater share of oil wealth - will be reopened on Sunday, according to the agreement.

Libya's justice minister said two other larger occupied ports - Ras Lanuf and Es Sider - would be reopened after two to four weeks of further negotiations with the federalist rebels, who also said more talks were needed to reach a breakthrough.

"The ports Zueitina and Hariga will be handed over to the state with the signature of this agreement. The protesters are banned from returning or obstructing work at the ports," Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani said, reading out the agreement.

Full details of the deal were not immediately known but the reopening of two ports will boost Libya's weak government, which is struggling to control the North African country nearly three years after an uprising ousted veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The restart of Libya's eastern oil ports could bump up Libya's output from around 150,000 bpd. But this would still be far from the 1.4 million bpd it produced before last summer, when Ibrahim Jathran, a former anti-Gaddafi fighter, seized three key ports in defiance of Tripoli's authority.

The shutdown has already cost the state billions of dollars in lost oil revenues.

Talks to end the standoff came after the federalist rebels last month managed to load crude onto a tanker at one port they control and forced it out to sea in an attempt to sell the oil.

U.S. commandoes later boarded the formerly North Korean-flagged vessel in international waters and returned it to Libya, in a major blow to the federalists' plan to bypass Tripoli and sell oil independently on the global market. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing, Ayman al-Warfalli and Feras Bosalum; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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