Libya to Launch New Licensing Round in Early 2004

Libya expects to hold a new exploration licensing round in the first quarter of next year, a senior official with the national oil company said on Tuesday. Tarek Hassan-Beck, director of planning at Libya's National Oil Corporation, said the country needed to bring in foreign investment to develop its oil potential, much of which has been under-exploited because of U.S. and now-lifted U.N. sanctions.

"After the last decade's tough times of these sanctions, we have a lot of homework to do, upstream, mid-stream and downstream," Hassan-Beck said.

"We expect in the first quarter of next year to start a big competition for upstream contracting, on an open bid approach, with a legal document that will be a lot more flexible than the previous ones," he said.

The United Nations lifted minor sanctions against Libya in September after a deal between Tripoli and families of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland. But U.S. sanctions dating from 1982 and strengthened in 1986, which ban the import of Libyan crude oil, as well as direct trade and commercial contracts with the country, still remain, and continue to keep U.S. firms out of Libya.