Qatar has marketed 1 million barrels of Libyan crude oil on behalf of Libya’s rebels, and delivered four shipments of petroleum products to the eastern port of Benghghazi, the Qatari state news agency QNA said on Tuesday.
QNA cited an official source at Qatar’s energy ministry as saying that “one million barrels of Libyan crude oil had so far been marketed.”
Most of Libya’s oil industry remains in the hands of leader Muammar Gaddafi although AGOCO, a breakaway arm of the National Oil Company, has allied itself with the rebels.
Western nations have imposed sanctions on Libyan oil exports sold by companies with connections to Gaddafi but have backed sales by AGOCO to help the rebels raise funds.
“Qatar has delivered through its state-owned marketing company International Petroleum Marketing Co. Ltd four shipments of oil products to the Libyan city of Benghazi,” QNA said.
QNA said the international community endorsed the actions at the March 29 conference on the Libyan crisis in London and that Qatar would continue to offer support to AGOCO.
TASWEEQ officials contacted by Reuters declined to add to the statement released by QNA.
On Tuesday US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States supports the marketing of Libyan crude oil by Qatar on behalf of rebels fighting against Gaddafi.
Toner said he could not speak for the Libya contact group on whether it authorized the sales but that the Libyan opposition needed funds to operate. “We do certainly support (those) efforts,” Toner told reporters at his daily briefing.
In late March Qatar agreed to market crude oil produced from east Libyan fields which are no longer in the control of Muammar Gaddafi.
“We contacted the oil company of Qatar and thankfully they agreed to take all the oil that we wish to export and market this oil for us,” said Ali Tarhouni, a rebel official in charge of economic, financial and oil matters.
Small, energy-rich Qatar became the first Arab nation to begin patrolling the U.N. backed no-fly zone and has urged Gaddafi to quit to avoid more bloodshed.
Libya produced about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day before the crisis, or almost 2 percent of world output. Most of the oil is in the east but sanctions and the lack of a marketing operation have stopped the rebels selling it abroad.
The north African country relies heavily on oil exports, which pay the state salaries on which most families depend.
Tarhouni said late last month that output from east Libya oil fields that rebels controlled was running at about 100,000 to 130,000 barrels per day (bpd), which could be increased to 300,000 bpd.
Tarhouni, a U.S. based academic and exile opposition figure, said the rebel leadership had set up an escrow account monitored by auditors that would be used to receive revenues from oil sales.
“We would keep the fund frozen until the entire country is liberated,” said Tarhouni. “Instead, what we will do is take loans backed by the sovereign fund.”
He said he saw no serious liquidity problems for the rebels, who were well placed in terms of foreign currency reserves.