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By Ahmed Elumami
TRIPOLI, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Libya’s oil production has dropped to 300,000 barrels per day, less than a quarter of what it produced before the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, mostly because of insecurity and closed pipelines, a top official said.
The North African state is caught in a conflict between two rival governments and their armed allies — one internationally recognised, and the other a self-declared administration that took over Tripoli last year.
Naji Moghrab, the top state oil official with the recognised government, told a local television channel late on Sunday output was at 300,000 bpd because of fighting between various armed factions and the closure of 50,000 km of oil pipeline.
Following the government split, Libya now has two rival state oil companies. One is with the recognised government and one with the Tripoli government, yielding often conflicting accounts of who controls what oil assets.
“The main problem behind the low production is insecurity, and of course the presence of Daesh near the oilfields,” Moghrab said, referring the Islamic State militants who have gained ground in Libya in the chaos.
Fighters allied with Islamic State, the Islamist militant group controlling parts of Iraq and Syria, attacked forces guarding one of Libya’s main oil ports on Thursday with a gun assault and an attempted car bomb.
But that eastern port, Es Sider, and the other main port, Ras Lanuf, have been closed since December because of fighting between armed factions allied to the opposing governments. Several oilfields have been shut for months by protesters blocking pipelines.
Before the 2011 uprising that ousted Gaddafi, Libya produced around 1.6 million bpd. But in recent years, its production has been almost constantly less than half that because of fighting or protests over jobs and salaries by local residents and workers.
The internationally recognised government has been campaigning for oil companies to abandon contracts signed with Tripoli’s National Oil Corporation, but many partners are wary given that much of the state oil company’s infrastructure and contracts remain in the capital. (Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; writing by Patrick Markey, editing by David Evans)