Top rebel official says Qatar is willing to provide fuel, medicine, food as part of deal to market oil
The rebel movement in
eastern Libya is discussing plans to exempt its oil exports from
sanctions and has also raised the issue with a UN envoy, a top
rebel financial official said on Friday.
Ali Tarhouni, the rebel official in charge of economic,
financial and oil matters, said Qatar would provide fuel,
medicine, food and other humanitarian needs to rebels as part of
a deal to market oil from the rebel-held east of the country.
Much of Libyan oil production comes from fields in the east
of Libya, an area controlled by rebels seeking to oust Muammar
Gaddafi. But output has dwindled because shipments have halted,
and there is limited storage and refining capacity.
UN diplomats in New York said on Monday that UN
sanctions on Libya did not bar rebels from exporting oil as long
as they bypass firms linked to Gaddafi.
"Our demands are simple and clear. Our top priority is
lifting the sanctions that stop us exporting our oil," Tarhouni
told a news conference, adding the issue of lifting sanctions
had been raised with a visiting U.N. envoy, Abdelilah al-Khatib.
He said that Khatib, who was in the rebel-held stronghold of
Benghazi, had responded that he would convey the rebel request
to the United Nations.
Speaking earlier in the day, Tarhouni said: "What we want is
an exemption from the sanctions. This is our main problem. It is
very hard for us, it is an obstacle."
He said rebels were discussing an exemption with what he
described as "friends" in the international community, but did
not give details.
Qatar recognised Libyan rebels on Monday, a day after rebels
said the Gulf Arab state had agreed to market crude oil produced
from east Libyan fields no longer under the control of Gaddafi.
Providing further details of that deal, Tarhouni said: "The
Qataris agreed they would market crude oil for us, and we would
put the money in an escrow account. We will receive what we need
in fuel, medicine, food and humanitarian needs from them."
Tarhouni said rebels had set up a "quasi-ministry of oil"
and that oil staff were now working under that body or for the
east-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco), which has said it
has cut ties with its parent, state-owned National Oil Corp.
Rebels continue to provide basic domestic fuel needs,
although towards the frontline of fighting during a rapid
advance by rebel forces earlier this week supply lines were
stretched and some fuel stations ran out of petrol.
Rebels had controlled all the oil terminals in the east
briefly this week but were ejected after Gaddafi's forces
bombarded their positions and chased them back east.
Gaddafi's forces now control Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, while
Brega is now on the frontline and rebels control Zueitina and
Tobruk further east.
Asked how the loss of Ras Lanuf or Brega could affect the
Qatari pact, Tarhouni said: "The deal has nothing to do with
Brega and Ras Lanuf. We are talking about oil production in the
southeast. The oil that flows from there is stored in liberated
areas," adding that the oil would be exported from Tobruk.
"The only delay is finding vessels that will carry the oil.
That is the only obstacle we have," he said.
Officials of Agoco, the main producer based in the east,
have said production was running about a quarter of the more
than 400,000 barrels per day the company produces under normal
U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 slapped
sanctions on Gaddafi, his family and inner circle, the National
Oil Corp, the central bank and other firms linked to Gaddafi.