Libya has lost $6 billion from oil protests: minister

TRIPOLI Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:22am EST

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya has lost some $6 billion due to protests at ports and oil fields that have reduced the North African country's crude exports to a trickle, its economy minister said on Thursday.

Tribes, armed militia and members of the Berber minority have seized most oil ports and fields since August to demand more rights or better pay, adding to chaos in Libya two years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

"If these blockages continue it will have a big negative impact," Economy Minister Mustafa Abu Fanas told reporters, putting the losses at almost 8 billion Libyan dinars ($6.43 billion) since summer.

He said the government would be able to pay public salaries and other expenditures by drawing in on other sources. He did not elaborate but Libya has built up reserves from times of high oil prices.

"There are now very intense efforts so this problem will perhaps be solved," he said of the oil protests.

Libya's economy is expected to shrink by 5.1 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said this week.

($1 = 1.2447 Libyan dinars)

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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