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US presses for security deal to allow Libya to restart Sharara oil field

Washington — The US is concerned by ongoing tensions in southern Libya that have prolonged the closure of the 340,000 b/d Sharara oil field and other critical crude export infrastructure, the State Department said Thursday.

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"We call on all parties to urgently establish a mutually acceptable security arrangement that will guarantee the safety of National Oil Corp. workers and allow oil production at the al-Sharara oil field to resume as quickly as possible for the benefit of all Libyans," deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

"We reiterate that the NOC must be allowed to resume its work unhindered and that these vital Libyan resources must remain under the exclusive control of the NOC and the sole oversight of the Government of National Accord," he added.

Sharara, Libya's largest oil field, has been shut since December 8 after armed groups, with the help of local people, occupied the site in protest over economic conditions and frequent power outages in the south of the country.

The field has become hostage to a battle between various rival groups, particularly the UN-backed Government of National Accord and the self-styled Libyan National Army.

Libya's oil production recovered in 2018 to 1.1 million b/d even though security and political challenges continued to impede the sector, but production fell to 850,000 b/d in January, the lowest since July, due to the Sharara outage, according to the most recent S&P Global Platts OPEC Survey.

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Derek Sands, newsdesk@spglobal.com