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UN, US call for ending blockade of oil fields in Libya

March 7, 2022 GMT

CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations and the United States on Monday called for the lifting of a blockade on oil production at two of Libya’s key oil fields as prices soared to over $130 a barrel.

Stephanie Williams, the U.N. special adviser on Libya, said blocking oil production from the Sharara and el-Feel fields “deprives all Libyans from their major source of revenue.” She tweeted: “The oil blockade should be lifted.”

Richard Norland, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, also called for an immediate end to the shutdown.

The closures have caused Libya’s daily oil production to drop by 330,000 barrels, according to the state-run National Oil Corporation. Before the shutdown, Libya’s production stood at around 1.2 billion barrels a day. The North African nation has the ninth-largest known oil reserves in the world, and the biggest oil reserves in Africa.

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The closure cost Libya more than $34.6 million daily in lost revenues, the state-run company said. Its chief, Mustafa Sanallah, blamed the shutdown on an armed group that is led by Mohamed Bashir al-Garg in the mountainous town of Zintan, around 136 kilometers (over 84 miles) southwest of the capital, Tripoli.

Local media reported that al-Garg, who also commands a force guarding oil facilities in the area, said the closures were due to “dire living conditions” and demanded authorities in Tripoli provide services to people in the region.

The shutdown came as Brent crude, the international pricing standard, hit $139.13 per barrel before falling back Monday, to be traded at $130.29 a barrel, as Russia’s war on Ukraine sent oil prices soaring.

The oil blockade in Libya has come amid a mounting standoff between the country’s two rival administrations that threatens to drag the nation into another round of infighting.