UPDATE 1-Libya's western Zawiya oil port, refinery shut by protests

Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:39pm EDT

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By Feras Bosalum and Julia Payne

TRIPOLI, April 11 (Reuters) - Libya's bid to resume normal oil exports after blockades at eastern ports that have lasted months stumbled on Friday when the oil terminal and refinery at Zawiya in the west were closed by fresh protests.

A blockade by local citizens late on Thursday prevented oil workers from discharging several oil product deliveries and forced the 120,000-barrel-per-day refinery to shut down, according to a government statement and a state oil company spokesman.

Two laden tankers, the Valdaosta and MT Torm Charente, were anchored outside the port on Friday, Reuters AIS Live shipping showed.

The protesters were demonstrating against the General National Council, the country's deeply divided parliament. The local council is negotiating with them.

Two days ago, the same group of protesters set fire to the council headquarters for the town of Zawiya, one of the activists told Reuters.

BREAKTHROUGH DEAL

The port closure compounds Libya's troubles in resolving protests that have choked oil exports and adds to stoppages at the connecting oilfield El Sharara and its pipeline which have been blocked by other groups since March.

A breakthrough deal on Sunday between the government and a federalist group led by former oil facilities security guard Ibrahim al-Jathran set in motion the re-opening of the ports of Hariga and Zueitina in the east after months of blockades.

Refiners have started chartering ships to pick up Sarir crude from Hariga, according to traders and shippers, while the larger Ras Lanuf and Es Sider ports remain blocked.

(Editing by Jason Neely)

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