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Libya Restarts El Sharara Oilfield But New Protest Erupts in West

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Reuters

TRIPOLI, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Libya has restarted oil production at the key El Sharara field after protesters ended a two-month blockade, the state-run National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Sunday, raising prospect of fresh badly-needed oil revenues for the North African country.

The resumption of the southern field could lift output to 600,000 barrels a day, providing a rare success for Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who has been trying to end a wave of oilfield and port blockages. Output had fallen to 250,000 bpd from 1.4 million in July.

But highlighting the volatile situation, a different set of protesters started blocking an oil pipeline in the west to the Mellitah export port, co-operated by Italy's ENI.

Libya is in turmoil as the government struggles to rein in militias that helped topple leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their guns and seize oil facilities or ministries at will to make political and financial demands.

The government has warned public salaries are at risk if oil strikes continue. Oil revenues are the main source for the budget and crucial to funding essential food imports such as wheat.

Tribesmen calling for greater local powers had blocked the El Sharara field since the end of October. NOC now hopes to reach the field's maximum output capacity of around 340,000 bpd within two to three days after starting with 60,000 bpd, spokesman Mohamed al-Harari said.

The field's manager told local news website Ajwaa Leblad production would reach 200,000 bpd by the end of Sunday.


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