Protesters Threaten to Close Another Oilfield in Eastern Libya


BENGHAZI, Libya, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Protesters blocking Libya's Abu Attifel oilfield threatened to close another field to force a state oil company to hire hundreds of local people, a spokesman for the protesters said on Tuesday.

The oilfield, a joint venture between Italian oil major Eni and Libya's state oil company, has been closed for a year by locals who demand jobs, part of a wave of strikes at oil facilities that began in July 2013.

Protests have ended at other oilfields, but the shutdown continues at Abu Attifel in Jalu, in Libya's volatile east. In addition to Abu Attifel, which used to pump 60,000 barrels per day, the protesters have now also closed the nearby Jalo 59 and 103A fields.

In a third step, they plan to close the nearby 103B field, their spokesman said. "If (state-run) National Oil Corp (NOC) does not meet our demands on Thursday, then the field will be closed."

The closures have lowered the North African country's oil output to less than 900,000 bpd, though NOC has not provided a recent production update.

The OPEC member's oil industry has made a comeback since three major ports in the east reopened earlier this year as part of a deal with a group of rebels, who had blocked the terminals to campaign for regional autonomy.

But the eastern Zueitina port remained closed. Oil workers there have been demanding a change of management at the port operator.

Libya is struggling with a breakdown in authority as the weak government is unable to control former rebels who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now use their heavy guns to seize oilfields or ministries to make political and financial demands.

The central government, recognised by the international community, has been challenged by an alternative cabinet set up by an armed group from the western city of Misrata, which took Tripoli, forcing senior officials to move to the far east in Tobruk.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by Jane Baird)


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