* Egypt to import 900,000 barrels of Libyan oil per month
* First shipment to arrive in April
* Egypt to pay $1bln in debts to foreign energy firms in two
* Libya denies reports Tripoli will deposit $2bln in Egypt
(Adds Libya PM, central bank official)
By Asma Alsharif and Regan Doherty
CAIRO/DOHA, March 27 Egypt will import 900,000
barrels of oil a month from Libya starting in April and is
paying off some of the money it owes to foreign energy firms,
its oil minister said, in steps aimed at easing energy shortages
that are hitting the economy.
Egypt, which has endured over two years of political
instability since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in
2011, is struggling with sliding currency reserves, falling
tourism and a soaring budget deficit.
Libya will provide Egypt with the equivilent of one million
barrels of crude per month at world prices to support the
economy, Nouri Berouin, chairman of the Libyan National Oil
Company, told Libya's state news agency.
With its foreign currency reserves at critical levels, Egypt
has cut back on some planned oil imports, traders said early
this month. The economy has been hit by two years of unrest
since Hosni Mubarak was deposed.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan also said his country was
considering extending financial aid but had yet to decide
whether to deposit $2 billion at Egypt's central bank as
reported by several newspapers this week.
"It has been under consultation. This issue has not been
decided yet," Zaidan told reporters in the Qatari capital Doha
when asked about the reports. He declined further comment.
A Libyan central bank official told Reuters that Tripoli
with its sovereign wealth fund would continue to look for
investment opportunities in Egypt.
"Libya owns stakes in three banks in Egypt and companies in
various sectors. We will invest whenever these companies need
liquidity, debt repayments and capital for operation," he said,
declining to be identified.
"Our investments in Egypt are very strategic and we will do
what's needed to support that. Egypt's security and stability
are as important to us as our own," he added.
The Egyptian government is estimated to owe billions of
dollars to oil producers working in the country, though the
government last month disputed a figure that put the debt at $9
Osama Kamal, the Egyptian oil minister, was quoted by the
Egyptian newspaper Al Mal as saying the government recently paid
$1 billion in debt to foreign energy firms and that another $1
billion would be coming in a fortnight.
"The Libyan petrol shipments will arrive next month," Kamal
was quoted as saying in a separate report in Al Borsa newspaper.
In Egypt "petrol" is used to refer to crude oil.
On Monday the Libyan oil minister, Abdul-Bari Al-Aroussi
said Libya plans to refine some of its crude oil in Egyptian
refineries to support the Egyptian economy which is struggling
after more than two years of political unrest.
Kamal also said in comments carried by local daily Al-Mal
newspaper he would meet with several foreign firms this week to
discuss new means to pump additional supplies of gas.
The government is working on an economic programme where it
plans to cut back on subsidies of fuel. Last year it eliminated
subsidies on 95-octane gasoline, the highest grade available,
and it raised fuel prices in many sectors last month.
The government had plans to start a scheme to ration
subsidised motor fuel using smart cards available to drivers of
vehicles with smaller capacity engines in July.
In remarks carried by local daily Al Masry Al Youm, Kamal
said the government was looking at a proposal to replace the
smart card plan with a system based on mobile phones, indicating
the government has yet to finalise the rationing plan. He did
not give a time frame.
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif and Ulf Laessing in Cairo, Tarek
Amara in Tunisia, Regan Doherty, Yara Bayoumy and Mirna Sleiman
in Doha, editing by William Hardy)