Amazigh protest could halt oil exports at Libya's Mellitah terminal

TRIPOLI Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:11pm GMT

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Minority Amazigh, or Berbers, protested on Sunday at a Libyan oil terminal operated jointly with Italy's ENI (ENI.MI), threatening to block exports unless their demands for more constitutional rights are met, a company official said.

Protesters arrived in boats at the Mellitah complex, a joint venture between ENI and Libya's state National Oil Corporation, said Munir Abu Saud, head of the oil workers at the port.

"They are now inside the port and have agreed with the company's management that they will allow production to continue until Tuesday," Abu Saud told Reuters.

The terminal, with a capacity of about 160,000 barrels per day, lies near Zuwara, a town west of the capital Tripoli.

Strikers and protesters demanding political rights, higher pay or a greater share of oil have shut down most ports in eastern Libya, but the government had managed to end similar blockages of western ports in September.

Abu Saud said workers at Mellitah had contacted the energy committee at the General National Congress assembly to help broker a solution with the Amazigh protesters.

Saleh Makhzum, a deputy parliamentary speaker, said the GNC had started talks with the protesters and that the General National Congress would discuss the issue on Tuesday.

The Amazigh protesters are demanding a bigger say in a committee to be elected to draft Libya's new constitution following Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow in 2011.

The Amazigh and other ethnic minorities object to the drafting committee's power to vote on the constitution's contents. They want a consensus of members, not just a majority, to decide on cultural and other issues.

Libya now produces around 600,000 bpd of oil, a NOC board member said last week, compared with 1.6 million bpd before Gaddafi's ouster.

The weak central government has failed to control feuding armed groups or resolve political conflicts that are obstructing post-war reconstruction and efforts to build state institutions.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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