Protesters shut Libya's Agoco office for day

Protesters calling for more transparency over how Libya's new rulers are spending assets and more support for the youth closed off the headquarters of the Arabian Gulf Oil Co (Agoco) on Monday as their demonstration prevented employees from entering.

Highlighting the continued risks months after the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, the group of 50 protesters, some of them unemployed youth who had fought in last year's war, blocked the Agoco office entrance gate in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Their demands, which have been echoed at previous protests in Benghazi, also included the sacking of Gaddafi-era officials.

"We chose to protest in front of Agoco because it is a large Libyan oil company and produces a large revenue for the country," 28-year old Mohammed al-Raed said.

Agoco spokesman Abdeljalil Mayuf, who put the number at about 30 protesters, confirmed the main Agoco office had been shut for the day. "They are trying to put pressure on the government," he said by phone. "They want (jobs)."

He said work at Agoco oilfields had continued as normal.

Oil represents the bulk of Libya's economy and the North African country is close to returning to pre-war production of 1.6 million barrels per day.

Discontent has been simmering in Benghazi, the cradle of the Libyan revolt, for a while. In January, protesters stormed the headquarters of the ruling National Transitional Council while its chairman was still in the building.

The interim government appointed in November is leading Libya towards elections in June but is struggling to restore services and impose order on a country awash with weapons.

Agoco, which produced 425,000 barrels per day before the war, gained increasing independence last year and acted as the de facto state oil company of the Libyan uprising as international sanctions imposed during the conflict prevented dealings with the National Oil Corporation.

(Source: Reuters)

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