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By Georgina Prodhan
VIENNA, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Libya hopes to reopen all its oil ports on Dec. 10 and resume full production about a week later after the Libyan army threatened to use force against armed protesters.
Libyan Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi told reporters at an OPEC meeting he was “optimistic” that pressure on protesters to allow the resumption of production would see Libyan oil output restored to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd).
“We have heard good news from the local people that they are going to attend to the situation,” Arusi said. “We don’t have any guarantees.”
A mix of militias, tribesmen and political minorities demanding a greater share of Libya’s oil wealth and more political power have shut most oilfields and ports, cutting oil output from 1.4 million bpd five months ago.
Asked how soon after Dec. 10 Libya could get production back to normal, the minister said: “From one week to 10 days.”
Oil traders and analysts greeted the comments with some scepticism, saying restoration of oil production and exports after a lengthy disruption often took months to complete.
“This looks wildly optimistic,” VTB Capital oil strategist Andrey Kryuchenkov said. “I can’t see Libya reopening all the ports quickly, and then it would take much longer to get back up to 1.5 million bpd full output.”
Libya’s army at the weekend told former militia fighters and protesters to end their occupations of oilfields and ports and allow crude exports to restart.
Arusi did not elaborate further on the reaction of the protesters to the army’s threats.
But he said local people from the same tribes as the protesters had told the government: “If you don’t open, we’re going to use force.”
Libyan output has fallen to just 225,000 bpd because of strikes at its main ports and fields.
Libya is in turmoil, with the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan struggling to control dozens of former militias that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi two years ago but have refused to give up their arms. (Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson in London; Editing by Dale Hudson)