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Libyan oil port resumes operations

Dec 27 2012 18:12 Reuters

(Ed Andrieski, AP)

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Tripoli - A major oil port in eastern Libya resumed operations on Thursday after protesters shut it down for 4 days, a port spokesperson said.

Al-Zuweitina Oil port, 790 km east of Tripoli, receives oil pumped from at least three oilfields in the Libyan desert and is responsible for exporting 60 000-70 000 barrels of oil a day.

Oil output and exports from Libya have been regularly disrupted over the past year due to tribal tensions and protests.

Abdel-Nasser Zumeit, chairman of the company which runs the port, said the protesters were persuaded to leave by local government officials but didn't have details on whether an actual agreement was reached.    

The protesters from the neighbouring city of Ajdabiya, demanding jobs from the government, had forced their way into the port's management offices on Saturday and ordered the port director to quit working and shut down operations.

"We were forced to halt our imports as of Saturday and now that we are back at work we will resume importing oil mid this week," said Zumeit.

A number of protests outside refineries and oil-related installations have posed a significant challenge to Libya's new government, which is dependent on oil for most of its revenue.  

The administration is still struggling to impose order on a vast and divided country awash with arms and militias after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi last year.

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi held a press conference to denounce the continuing disruptions at oil installations saying the government would do more to protect them, but did not provide details on how.

"The government will not accept antagonization by these irresponsible actions... and will do all it needs to in order to protect its installations," Zumeit told reporters.

He said government security forces tasked with protecting oil installations such as the Zuweitina port was just too weak.

"Also many of the government's security forces are locals from the protesting towns and sympathise with the protesters allowing them to cause disruptions," he said.

Western Libya's main oil refinery has seen at least four shutdowns since October, causing petrol shortages in the capital Tripoli after war veterans demonstrating for more government compensation forced the refinery to halt operations.

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