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Libyan oil ports remain closed after rebels renege on pledge

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Libyan oil ports remain closed after rebels renege on pledge


A much hoped for breakthrough to end the five-month blockade of Libya's eastern oil export terminals has failed to materialize after rebel leader Ibrahim al-Jathran, head of an eastern Libyan autonomy movement, refused Sunday to allow the ports to reopen.

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Tribal leaders in the eastern Cyrenaica region had pledged to reopen the ports and allow oil exports to resume provided the central government in Tripoli met a number of conditions.

Jathran said on Sunday the conditions had not been met, the Libya Herald reported.

Mohammed Ibn Tabu, a spokesman for Jathran's office, told the Libya Herald the blockade on the ports would continue, adding that Jathran was acting "in the interests of the people of Cyrenaica" and all Libya.

Last week, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan welcomed the pledge to reopen the ports, and said he would only deal with tribal elders on the subject of conditions set by rebels for restarting exports.

Zeidan said he would not discuss the demands with Jathran, which included the eastern Cyrenaica region receiving a share of the oil revenues and the formation of a committee from Libya's three main regions to supervise oil exports and distribution of the revenues.

"It is only the elders that we deal with," Zeidan said then.

Jathran, given command of the Petroleum Defense Guards in 2011 and thought to be behind the blockades of the terminals, made the demands Tuesday.

The blockades of the key ports of Es Sider, Marsa el-Hariga, Ras Lanuf and Zueitina -- with a combined export capacity of 740,000 b/d -- were ordered by rebels demanding more autonomy for the Cyrenaica region.

Libyan oil minister Abdel Bari al-Arousi last week said he was hopeful exports would resume shortly and reach pre-crisis levels quickly once blockades were lifted. He said production was running at 250,000 b/d.

Arousi also reiterated his forecast made ahead of December's OPEC meeting that once the ports were working again export volumes would return to normal levels within a week.

Protests and sit-ins at key Libyan oil infrastructure -- particularly in the east of the country -- have caused production to slump to lows of around 200,000 b/d and exports cut to a trickle.

Before the protests and strikes began in earnest in May, Libya was producing close to capacity, at around 1.4 million b/d.

--Stuart Elliott,
--Edited by Dan Lalor,