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Libya increasing fuel imports to overcome shortages at petrol stations
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TRIPOLI: Libya is increasing fuel imports to make up for local shortages caused by strikes and shutdowns at oilfields and ports, officials said on Sunday.

Motorists in the capital Tripoli have been queuing for more than a week to refill cars and soldiers have had to move in to protect some petrol stations during protests by people demanding fresh supplies.

Militias and tribesmen, some demanding autonomy and a greater share of oil revenues, have blocked several oilfields and ports in the North African country, slashing oil production to about 220,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 1.4 million in July.

Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak told reporters the situation was improving as more imports were coming in to bolster production at the 120,000 bpd-Zawiya refinery after it was hit by the shutdown of the southern El Sharara field.

"We want to assure people that we are continuing to import and distribute fuel," he said.

Two tankers with fresh supplies had arrived at Zawiya port, one of them loaded with around 35 million litres of fuel products, said Samir Kamal, director of planning in the oil ministry. He gave no more details.

Another tanker was currently loading cargo at an Italian port, while a second ship was on its way to Italy to load supplies for Libya's east, added Azam Abd al-Muli, head of the supply department at state-owned National Oil Corp (NOC).

Storage facilities at Zawiya refinery were full, said Faraj al-Kamishi, head of the state-owned Brega Petroleum Marketing Company. "We cannot receive more," he said. "The (supply) crisis has abated much."

NOC had distributed 355 million litres of fuel across Libya in November and an extra 215 million in the first two weeks of December, officials said. They gave no breakdown of imports and domestic production.

The head of a group seeking greater autonomy in the east said earlier on Sunday he would not end the blockade of the Ras Lanuf, Es-Sider and Zueitina ports - which used to process 600,000 bpd of exports - after talks with government over sharing oil revenues failed.

Shakmak declined to comment on the statement from autonomy leader Ibrahim Jathran.

"I am not in charge of this (talks with protesters)," he said.

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