(Adds details, background)
BENGHAZI, Libya, March 15 Libya's eastern
parliament said on Wednesday it supported ending a deal to unify
the country's National Oil Corporation (NOC), a day after
eastern forces recaptured major oil ports from a rival faction.
The fighting for control of the ports in Libya's Oil
Crescent, a strip of coast southwest of Benghazi, has raised
fears of an escalation of violence and a reversal for the OPEC
member state's efforts to revive its oil output.
The statement from the parliament's energy committee urged
the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) to hand over the
ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf as soon as it had fully secured
them, without saying who they should be handed to.
The LNA originally seized Es Sider, Ras Lanuf and two other
terminals in September, handing them to the NOC in Tripoli and
allowing Libya's oil production to more than double. That move
followed a deal in July to unify the Tripoli NOC with a rival
NOC in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Until the recent fighting over the ports between the LNA and
the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), the LNA had continued to
allow oil to be exported under the authority of Tripoli even
though the NOC unification deal had stalled.
The parliament statement, coupled with the withdrawal of the
NOC Benghazi head from the unification deal, appeared to signal
that eastern-based factions may try to leverage their military
control over the ports and other oil facilities.
Prior to the NOC unification deal, attempts by eastern
authorities to manage oil operations independently of the
U.N.-backed government in Tripoli had been blocked by
international sanctions that remain in place.
The statement from the eastern parliament said it supported
a withdrawal from the NOC unification deal partly because the
NOC headquarters had not been moved to Benghazi, as agreed.
"We inform everyone of the end of the agreement by which the
oil ports were handed over to the so-called unified NOC," the
parliament statement said.
An LNA spokesman said on Tuesday that a decision on who
should control the oil ports would not be taken immediately, and
that the head of the Benghazi NOC would inspect them.
National oil production dipped by about 100,000 barrels to
some 600,000 bpd after the BDB attacked the ports on March 3. On
Wednesday, LNA officials said they were continuing air strikes
against the BDB a day after forcing them from the ports.
The LNA accuses political rivals based in western Libya of
supporting the BDB.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; writing by Aidan Lewis;
editing by David Clarke)