Libyan Rebels: Oil Will Keep Flowing, 'No Problem' As unrest continues in Libya, rebels in the east now say they control most of supplies of the world's 12th-largest oil exporter. They've vowed to keep the oil flowing even if Col. Moammar Gadhafi clings to power in the capital.
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Libyan Rebels: Oil Will Keep Flowing, 'No Problem'

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Libyan Rebels: Oil Will Keep Flowing, 'No Problem'

Libyan Rebels: Oil Will Keep Flowing, 'No Problem'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Colonel Moammar Gadhafi is denying there are protests in Tripoli and denying he's used any force against his people. Those were among a number of statements he made today to the BBC, CNN and the Sunday Times of London - statements which fly in the face of evidence. Here's another.

Colonel MOAMMAR GADHAFI (Leader, Libya): They love me, all my people with me -they love me all.

Unidentified Woman: But if they do love you...

Col. GADHAFI: They will die to protect me, my people.

BLOCK: We're going to talk more now about political prospects in Libya and throughout the region.

NORRIS: First the question of oil. Libya is a major exporter. And rebels in the east of Libya now say they control most of the oil facilities.

As NPR's Jason Beaubien found, they are vowing to keep the oil flowing.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The port at the oil depot here in Tobruk reopened over the weekend for the first time since the February 17th uprising. Today, one oil tanker was loading a million barrels of crude bound for China and another was waiting in the harbor. The second vessel is scheduled to ferry 600,000 barrels of oil to Italy.

Rajab Sahnoun, the superintendent of the facility, says the tankers are a sign that everything is getting back to normal. And he says the plant will continue to operate at or near its regular capacity.

Mr. RAJAB SAHNOUN (Superintendent, Oil Port Facility): We can continue no problem. We have experience. And we'll supply the oil for everywhere, no problem.

BEAUBIEN: Sahnoun says there have been some delays because tankers weren't docking last week, but crude continues to arrive through a pipeline at what he calls a normal flow. Tobruk is the spigot to the world for Libya's largest oil field, Sarir, which sits about 300 miles south of here in the desert. Sarir has the capacity to pump 230,000 barrels of oil a day.

Normally, Libya's daily oil output is roughly 1.5 million barrels. It's unclear how much of that production has been disrupted by the unrest. Most foreign oil companies, including BP, Exxon Mobil and Total, have evacuated all their foreign employees. But Sahnoun says this doesn't affect his facility.

Mr. SAHNOUN: No. No. No. We don't deal with BP and another company. This is a national company. And all the manpower is Libyan; all the engineers and operators is Libyan.

BEAUBIEN: And while this is a national oil facility, it's now controlled by the rebels. The red, black and green flag that's become the symbol of the revolution flies from the guard post. Sahnoun says he now reports to the opposition leaders in Benghazi.

The facility has huge storage tanks for crude, two docks to load seagoing tankers, a refinery, an electrical power plant and a natural gas processing unit. Except for the tanker delays, Sahnoun says all of this has continued to function even during the uprising of February 17th.

Libyan Army Colonel Ibrahim Omar Al-Mnffi used to be in charge of security for the oil facilities in the east of the country for Moammar Gadhafi. But he defected after the uprising and now Colonel Al-Mnffi does exactly the same job for the rebels.

Colonel IBRAHIM OMAR AL-MNFFI (Army, Libya): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: He points to a map that shows the major petroleum fields, refineries and pipelines in Libya and he says all of these are now controlled by the opposition.

Col. AL-MNFFI: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: The colonel says he and his men joined the rebels to free Libya from a dictator. He says another army unit in the west that's switched sides now controls most of the oil facilities in the other half of the country.

However, another rebel commander told reporters pro-Gadhafi forces yesterday recaptured a key oil terminal at Ras Lanuf, west of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The commander said Gadhafi sent reinforcements to the terminal today. It is also the site of a large refinery.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Tobruk, Libya.

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