January 19, 2009 / 2:48 PM / 10 years ago

Media urges Libya to nationalise foreign oil firms

TRIPOLI, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Libya’s Basic People Congresses (LBPCs), the country’s top executive and legislative bodies, should vote to nationalise foreign oil firms when they meet in the next few days, Libya’s main state newspaper said on Monday.

“We should move fast to take back our oil from foreign companies,” said al Jamahiriya daily, which is widely seen as the mouthpiece of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s backers in the government bureaucracy.

“It is an opportunity for the Libyans who will meet at their Basic People Congresses in the next few days. Our oil is our wealth which requires that we control it and not leave it as a tool at the hands of foreign firms,” it added.

A similar report was carried by Al Chams, founded by Gaddafi.

The newspapers argued that nationalisation of foreign firms would help Libya adapt better to fluctuating oil prices.

“Our national companies would be able to control the amounts of oil to be pumped at the warranted throughput. The oil faucet would be fully under our control,” Al Chams added.

LBPCs are the backbone of Libya’s Jamahiriya regime, and meet at districts and provinces to vote on government policy.

But in practice, Gaddafi decides policy, including on oil, Libya’s economic mainstay.

The General People Congress, the equivalent of a national parliament, meets afterwards to endorse decisions by LBPCs.

Oea daily, which is close to Gaddafi’s son Saif al Islam who is the symbol for many Libyans and foreigners of the nascent opening of Libya to foreign markets, printed an analysis attacking foreign firms for causing heavy losses for the state.

Oea argues foreign firms investing in Libya’s oil industry make profits of up to 200 percent and that must be changed by expanding state control of oil industry.

Government officials were not immediately available to comment.

The reports come after Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) released a report for 2008, suggesting officials want to modify current oil policy based mainly on production sharing agreements.

Some diplomats argue such reports are aimed at putting more pressure on oil firms in upcoming negotiations.

Libya earned $5.4 billion in additional oil revenues from changes to contracts with four foreign companies last year, NOC said in its report made public last week.

The changes include among other measures slashing their production shares to 10 percent or 15 percent, NOC said.

NOC said negotiations were under way with other unnamed companies to reach similar changes which would boost oil earnings further.

OPEC member Libya plans to nearly double crude oil production by 2012 with an investment of $30-$40 billion. It pumps about 1.7 million barrels per day of oil. (Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by James Jukwey)

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