(Adds comment from breakaway NOC, Sanalla on Rosneft deal)
By Shadia Nasralla
VIENNA, April 6 (Reuters) - The head of Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) defended the organisation on Thursday against repeated challenges to its legitimacy, saying it was working for all Libyans rather than any particular faction.
His comments to reporters in Vienna come as the Tripoli-based corporation faces a slew of challenges from various political and armed groups in Libya trying to lay claim to the country’s vast oil wealth.
“I think everybody in the country understood that NOC is working for the whole nation and not one faction or illegitimate faction,” Mustafa Sanalla said, adding that the corporation was the “glue” holding Libya together.
Last month, the head of an eastern breakaway NOC said he could no longer comply with a unification deal agreed last year with the original NOC in Tripoli.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the breakaway NOC in Benghazi said it had held an emergency meeting a day earlier to discuss the Tripoli NOC and “the transgression it carries out in monopolising the sale of oil”.
Sanalla said contracts with international oil companies were protected by the United Nations. U.N. resolutions that remain in place have foiled past attempts by eastern factions to sell oil independently.
In another challenge, the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli issued a decree in March to strip the NOC of some of its powers, including the approval and cancellation of contracts.
Sanalla has asked the government to withdraw the resolution, saying that only the House of Representatives, Libya’s legislature, has the power to make such changes.
The political tests come against a backdrop of security threats by various militant and unarmed groups that have hindered OPEC member Libya’s oil production.
The most recent incident was a week-long shutdown of the Sharara oilfield, Libya’s largest, after an unknown group blocked a pipeline linking it to the Zawiya oil terminal.
The field, which restarted on April 2, is now producing 215,000 barrels per day (bpd), Sanalla said.
Libya’s national output stands at 693,000 bpd and further increases at Sharara could help drive it to 800,000 bpd by the end of April and to 1.1 million bpd by August, if security and budgetary conditions allow, Sanalla said.
He also commented on a deal that the NOC signed with Russia’s Rosneft in February, which he said covered future upstream and midstream cooperation as well as an oil offtake agreement.
Sanalla said the pricing of oil exported from Libya by Rosneft would be the same as for the NOC’s other foreign partners. “We sell oil with the same formula, the same prices,” he said. (Additional reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi, Libya; Writing by Aidan Lewis and Ahmad Ghaddar; Editing by Dale Hudson and David Clarke)