Libya's NTC rules out new oil contracts before election

Libya will not award any further oil contracts until a government is formed after elections, the country's interim oil and finance minister said on Wednesday.

"There are no new contracts in this transitory period for Total or for any company," Ali Tarhuni told reporters on the occasion of a visit to the country by an 80-strong business delegation from France.

A National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter screams in pain after getting wounded from a mortar fired by forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi in Sirte on October 12, 2011

"The only government that can give new concessions in oil is an elected government, and that would be after we have a constitution," he said.

The NTC is awaiting the fall of fugitive former strongman Moamer Kadhafi's hometown of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, before declaring the liberation of Libya and forming a transitional administration ahead of a general election.

NTC forces were looking to move in for the kill against Kadhafi diehards in Sirte on Wednesday after meeting little resistance and taking several key objectives.

Libya's oil production, which collapsed following the uprising in February, is expected to rise from current levels of around 400,000 barrels per day, to nearly one million by April, Nuri Berruien, the president of the state-run National Oil Corp (NOC), told the conference.

"We are shooting to go back to previous levels of 1.6-1.7 million, hopefully before the end of 2012," he said.

Commenting on damage done to the country's oil infrastructure caused by fighting this year, he said the worst was "what has been done in the last 42 years" of Kadhafi's rule, when he said the oil-rich country had to import more than 60 percent of its gasoline.

"Probably in the next two years I would see intensive exploring activities," Berruien told French industry executives, adding that such programmes would require "very large investment but the returns are very great."

The NOC president said the priorities for all future contract negotiations would be how they benefit the Libyan people, and the principle of transparency.

"We had enough of corruption, we had enough of squandering public wealth," Berruien told the conference, which was attended by French energy firms including Total and GDF Suez.


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