Libya's Agoco says may stop output due to protests

Libya's Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) may halt production of crude if authorities do not put an end by Thursday to protests that have closed off its headquarters for a week, a company spokesman said.

Protesters have prevented Agoco employees from entering its Benghazi-based office since last Monday, calling for more transparency over how Libya's new rulers are spending its money and more jobs for youth.

Oil accounts for the bulk of Libya's economy and exports. The North African country is close to returning to pre-war production of 1.6 million barrels per day, and its recovery contributed to a rise in OPEC output in April, despite a drop in Iranian supply.

Agoco spokesman Abdeljalil Mayuf said Agoco had sent a letter to its parent company, Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC), calling for a solution.

"This is something that can have very serious consequences," he said by phone on Monday, adding that some staff were working from a nearby annex in the meantime.

"A week later we are still in the same situation, the main gate is blocked. We have said that if there is no solution by May 3, we may be obliged to stop production."

Mayuf said Agoco officials had spoken to Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib on Saturday while he was in Benghazi. He said El-Keib had promised to look into the matter.

"We are Monday today, and still we have nothing," he said.

Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak last week warned that the protest could affect work at Agoco oilfields.

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

At Agoco, the protesters have set up a tent outside the main gate of the office, where they have put up banners reading "We will stay", a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Their demands, also made at previous protests in the eastern city, have included the sacking of Gaddafi-era officials.

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 bpd of crude oil before the war, acted as the de facto state oil company of the Libyan uprising as international sanctions imposed during the conflict prevented dealings with the NOC.

(Source: Reuters)

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