March 2, 2011 / 11:48 AM / 9 years ago

Libya hopes oil does not become weapon

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya hopes tensions with Western countries over a popular revolt in the country do not reach the stage where the Tripoli government considers oil as a political weapon, a top oil official said on Wednesday.

Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, also told Reuters in an interview that Libya’s troubles had created the country’s worst energy crisis in decades and Libyan supply disruptions to world markets could push oil above $130 a barrel in the next month if troubles persist.

Oil markets will be watching closely to see if the departure of oil workers fearful of violence in Libya will further cut output in the world’s 12th largest exporter.

Ghanem said crude oil output had dropped to 700,000-750,000 barrels per day after the flight of most of the foreign workers who make up about 10 percent of the Libyan energy industry’s labour forces, including some in key positions. Before the crisis Libya pumped 1.6 million bpd.

Asked if Libya would resort to using oil as leverage, or a political weapon if the United States and other Western countries stepped up pressure on Libya over its handling of the revolt, Ghanem said:

“I hope we are not reaching any stage where we are talking about using this (oil) as a political force,” he said.

“We hope that all things will be solved before we go into any complications of any matters.”

Reporting by Michael Georgy; editing by Keiron Henderson

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