Libyan rebels agree to reopen two oil terminals after deal

Rebel at Ras Lanuf (11 March) The rebels have been demanding a greater share of Libya's oil wealth and more regional autonomy

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Two Libyan oil terminals have reopened, after rebels agreed partially to lift their oil blockade in a deal reached with the government.

The terminals of Zueitina and Hariga in the east are now in government hands, the justice minister has said.

Two other ports are due to reopen in the coming weeks.

Oil exports have plummeted 80% in the past eight months after the closures of oil ports led by militiamen seeking greater regional autonomy.

Traders have been watching the negotiations closely, keen to know when Libyan oil is going to re-enter the market after major disruption.

A failed attempt to sell oil illegally last month triggered the latest round of talks to lift the blockade.

'Goodwill gesture'

Libya's Minister of Justice, Salah al-Marghani, confirmed the partial lifting of the oil blockades, at a news briefing in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Zueitina is located to the south of Benghazi and Hariga to the east.

Potentially the two ports could increase Libya's crude oil exports by about 200,000 barrels per day.

That would be a big boost to the nation's output, which is currently running at around 150,000 barrels per day.

Mr al-Marghani said the remaining two largest oil terminals in the east, Ras Lanuf and Sidra, would also reopen soon.

"The protesters are banned from returning or obstructing work at the ports," he added.

Under the agreement, the government will pay compensation to the rebels, drop charges against them and reverse its threat of a military offensive.

Map

Rebels have been demanding a greater share of Libya's oil wealth and more regional autonomy.

Negotiations between the two sides have been difficult and previous agreements have broken down.

As part of the deal, the prime minister's spokesman told the BBC the government had agreed to pay the salaries of guards at the terminals.

The leader of the eastern blockade, Ibrahim Jathran, said on Libyan TV that the deal had been reached to prove the militiamen were a peaceful movement.

"It's a goodwill gesture on our part to prove that talking and negotiating is the only way to resolve Libyan problems without interference from the West and from others and without the use of force or threats," he said.

Last month US forces returned a tanker that had been loaded with oil by the rebels to the Libyan government.

The North Korea-flagged ship Morning Glory had been loaded at the port of Sidra and evaded a naval blockade before being boarded by US Navy Seals south of Cyprus.

Its evasion prompted parliament to sack Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

On Friday the benchmark price of Brent crude closed at $106.59 a barrel, up 44 cents.

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