Last updated: 13 November, 2013

Libya ex-rebels lift blockade of oil refinery

Former rebels demanding medical care lifted on Wednesday a three-day blockade of an oil refinery in the Libyan town of Zawiya that had brought production to a halt, an AFP reporter said.

The ex-rebels and the National Oil Company had reached agreement and production at the refinery, which accounts for 18 percent of Libya’s domestic fuel needs, had resumed, according to NOC spokesman Mohammed al-Hrairi.

The ex-rebels launched their protest on Monday, blocking two entrances to the refinery with mounds of sand and posting men outside a third to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the facility.

The AFP reporter said that by Wednesday afternoon the protesters had dispersed, the blockades had been removed and fuel trucks were seen leaving the refinery.

The former rebels, who are demanding ongoing medical care for wounds they received in battles during the revolution that toppled Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, had already staged similar protests at the refinery twice last year.

The Zawiya plant produces some 120,000 barrels a day of fuel and derivatives. In addition to its national role, its output also covers some 70 percent of western Libya’s needs.

Queues began forming on Wednesday at petrol stations in Tripoli and its suburbs amid fears of fuel shortages because of the protest.

Libyans often seek medical treatment abroad because of the poor state of services at home.

A government programme to provide medical care outside the country to former rebels was halted after it was abused on several occasions.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund warned that Libya’s economy was expected to contract by 5.1 percent this year because of oil output disruptions triggered by protests.

Current output is estimated to have dropped to 250,000 barrels per day, from 1.5 million bpd before the protests erupted in July, an NOC official told AFP last week.