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Libya’s Ghanem Says Air Strike Halts Work at Sarir Oil Field

Work at the Sarir oil field in eastern Libya halted today after an air strike that killed three people, the head of the state-run National Oil Corp. said.

Libya’s current crude output is between 250,000 and 300,000 barrels a day, all of which goes to domestic refineries and to meet local consumption, Shokri Ghanem, the company’s chairman, said in a telephone interview from Tripoli.

“All exports are now at a halt,” Ghanem said. “We are trying to work to ensure the safety of the installations and the people in that area.”

The Sarir field is wholly controlled by Arabian Gulf Oil Co., Ghanem said. This company, known as Agoco, said in February that it was splitting from its parent, National Oil, to join the protest movement against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

The rebels, from their stronghold in the eastern city of Benghazi, have been battling forces loyal to Qaddafi in a bid to end his 42-year rule. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has conducted air raids against loyalist tanks and other heavy military equipment to support the rebels.

NATO said Qaddafi’s forces caused a fire at Sarir, Al Arabiya television reported today. Abdeljalil Mayuf, a manager at Agoco’s information department, said the oil field had been attacked by Qaddafi loyalists and not by a British jet, according to Reuters. Bloomberg’s attempts today to reach Agoco by telephone were unsuccessful.

Divided Oil Wealth

Agoco said in March that it would sell its products separately from Tripoli-based National Oil. An interim national council representing Qaddafi’s opponents said on April 1 that Qatar had agreed to market Agoco oil and create a deposit account where fees from selling the cargoes could be collected.

Qaddafi opponents were preparing to make their first international oil sale as the tanker Equator, which can carry 1 million barrels, departed the Marsa al-Hariga terminal near the eastern port of Tobruk, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The Equator, indicated as having a cargo on board, signaled Singapore as its destination, the data show.

Ghanem said that an “unauthorized” tanker had loaded oil from Libya, adding that Tripoli will “take legal measures against people that put their hands on Libyan oil.”

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