August 21, 2017 / 2:51 PM / 10 months ago

Gambia presidency says blocks claimed by African Petroleum open for bids

(In Aug. 21 story, corrects day in paragraph 4 to Monday)

DAKAR (Reuters) - African Petroleum’s rights to explore in two offshore Gambian oil blocks have expired and are currently “open for licensing”, presidential spokeswoman Amie Bojang said on Monday.

The comments came after a statement from the Oslo-listed firm earlier in the day, saying it was prepared to launch legal proceedings to defend its rights to the blocks in early September if it did not receive positive news from the government.

The A1 and A4 oil blocks are thought to contain up to 3 billion barrels of oil and are adjacent to licences in neighbouring Senegal where large discoveries have been made.

Shares in African Petroleum closed down 11.48 percent on Monday, lagging a flat Oslo benchmark index.

Gambian oil officials first told Reuters in July that they did not plan to extend the firm’s exploration rights, citing a failure to meet its commitments.

But African Petroleum says it maintains the legal rights to the blocks and Chief Executive Jens Pace has since held talks with President Adama Barrow, who replaced long-ruling Yahya Jammeh in January, in an attempt to resolve the disagreement.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Joe Bavier and David Evans

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