French oil body expects firms to remove staff from Algeria

PARIS Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:28pm GMT

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PARIS (Reuters) - The head of France's oil industry body, UFIP, said on Thursday he expected French energy firms would remove some employees from Algeria and other high-risk areas after Islamist militants took dozens of people hostage at an Algerian gas plant.

Energy companies such as Total with operations in Algeria have declined to discuss what measures they will take following Wednesday's attack, but UFIP head Jean-Louis Schilansky said security was bound to be increased.

"These facilities are very vulnerable. I think that a number of companies will repatriate some of their staff because conditions today are very difficult," he told reporters.

French firms have been reluctant to discuss plans beyond saying they have stepped up security in the wider regions since French aircraft started bombing Islamist rebels in Mali a week ago to halt their advance on the capital Bamako.

"We have security plans in place and remain vigilant, but we are far from the concerned area," said a spokesman for Lafarge, the world's largest cement maker. Lafarge has two cement plants and 22 concrete production centers located in northern Algeria, where it employs 2,000 staff.

Oil giant Total, which produces about one percent of its total output in Algeria, declined to discuss staffing levels. "We are permanently monitoring the situation and are taking all steps needed to ensure the security of our premises and staff in the region," said a Total spokesman.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Catherine Bremer and Brian Love; Editing by Mark Heinrich)