Libya Sends Longtime Gadhafi Ally to OPEC Meeting

VIENNA (Dow Jones Newswires), June 6, 2011

Omran Abukraa, a long-time close ally of Col. Moammar Gadhafi and the former head of Libya's national electricity company, will be representing Libya at the OPEC meeting Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

But people close to anti-Gadhafi rebels said they were still considering sending an envoy to Vienna, which could set the stage for a confrontation between both parties.

Abukraa "will be replacing Shokri Ghanem [who has defected] at the meeting, but it's unclear if he is the new head of NOC [National Oil Corp.]," said the person familiar with Gadhafi's circles.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is set to discuss a possible output increase at one of its most crucial gatherings in years.

The news about Libya's representation will lift some uncertainty about the meeting after Ghanem, the long-time head of the National Oil Corp. who normally represents Libya at OPEC, recently said he had joined the opposition to Gadhafi.

Abukraa is the former head of the General Electricity Company of Libya.

But rebels from the Transitional National Council, which is seeking Gadhafi's overthrow, are still considering whether or not they would send an emissary to the meeting.

"It will be discussed today [Monday] in Benghazi," one TNC official said. Another person close to the rebels said OPEC had been told that the rebels plan to send representatives to Vienna.

But the Council has been recognized by only handful of countries--including OPEC member Qatar--as a the official Libyan government.

That could pose problems for Libyan rebels' efforts to gain official representation at OPEC.

OPEC meets Wednesday for the first time since the Arab Spring against a backdrop of triple-digit oil prices. The producer's organization had until recently been expected to hold production steady.

But in recent days, several Gulf producers have signaled favoring an output hike when OPEC meets Wednesday to respond to mounting demand, people familiar with the matter said this weekend. However, at least one OPEC member, Iran, vocally opposes such a move.

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