* Export port Hariga been blocked since August
* Protesters demanding more autonomy, financial support
* Authorities moving oil HQ from capital to Benghazi
(Adds oil official)
By Ayman al-Warfalli
BENGHAZI, Libya, Dec 27 Libya's eastern Hariga
port will resume oil exports within days after protesters agreed
to end a four month blockage, an oil official said on Friday.
A reopening would be a victory for Prime Minister Ali Zeidan
who has been trying to end such blockades, which have reduced
Libya's oil output to 250,000 bpd from 1.4 million bpd in July,
cutting much needed revenue for rebuilding the state.
The protesters in the east, which was the cradle of the
revolt that ousted veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi, also have
their own victory, of sorts, as Libyan authorities are building
a new oil headquarters there, moving it from the capital Tripoli
in the west, to appease their calls for greater autonomy.
Tribesmen and other protesters have occupied Hariga, located
in Tobruk in the far east of Libya, since August to press their
financial and autonomy demands despite several government
attempts to reopen the terminal.
It has an export capacity of 110,000 barrels per day and
also serves the Tobruk oil refinery.
There was no immediate confirmation from the government
which has repeatedly announced Hariga would reopen. But in a
sign of progress, state National Oil Corp (NOC) said last week
the 20,000 barrels a day-Tobruk refinery had resumed work.
Mohamed Ben Shatwan, head of Arabian Gulf Oil Co (AGOCO)
operating Hariga port, told Reuters an agreement had been
reached with local people to secure the port and restart the
"A ship is docked at the port, and exports will resume
within days," Shatwan said in the eastern city of Benghazi,
adding that oil from the Sarir field had already been pumped to
He spoke on the sidelines of ceremony attended by senior
officials to lay the foundation stone for the new NOC
headquarters in Benghazi, which will move from Tripoli.
Another oil official, asking not to be named, said it was
not yet clear whether the protesters would allow the loading of
tankers but a group of activists planned to travel by boat to
the port to convince them to end the blockage.
The protesters, which have been divided over what to demand,
have several times prevented tankers from docking at the port.
Pressure has been building on militias and tribesmen seizing
ports and fields to allow the resumption of oil exports, the
main source for the national budget and to fund food imports.
Zeidan has warned the government might not be able to pay
public salaries if strikes continue.
Many in the east, home to much of the country's oil wealth,
sympathise with port and oil strikers campaigning for a greater
share of oil sales and power in the turmoil that has bedevilled
Libya 2-1/2 years after Gaddafi was ousted then killed.
"We meet today to lay the foundation stone ... for the
National Oil Corp and other government institutions to achieve
economic and social development," Deputy Oil Minister Omar
Shakmak told the audience.
State-owned Libyan Airlines, the Libyan Insurance Company
and the National Investment Company are also set to move to the
eastern port city, which was starved of cash under Gaddafi.
Last week, the Tripoli government had expected a heavily
armed autonomy group in eastern Libya to lift the blockage of
the Ras Lanuf, Es-Sider and Zueitina ports previously accounting
for 600,000 bpd after tribal elders pressured it.
But autonomy leader Ibrahim Jathran declared at the last
minute that talks with Tripoli to get a greater share of oil
revenues for the east had failed.
Jathran's and other militias involved in oil strikes in the
east and other parts of the country helped topple Gaddafi in
2011 but have kept their weapons, fuelling concerns about
instability in the North African country.
The NOC ceremony came as gunmen assassinated one air force
officer in another part of Benghazi while he was leaving a
mosque after Friday prayers, a security source said.
The security situation has sharply deteriorated in Benghazi,
Libya's second-largest city, in the past few months.
Most countries closed their consulates in the city after a
series of attacks and some foreign airlines have stopped flying
there. The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed
in September 2012 during an Islamist assault on the consulate.
Western diplomats worry the violence in Benghazi will spill
over to the capital which has also seen some clashes between
militias in recent months.
(additional reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Ulf
Laessing; Editing by Alison Williams)