Libya rebels deny promising France oil

Libya's new rebel government dismissed claims on Thursday that it had promised France control of 35 percent of the country's oil production, rubbishing a purported letter from their government.

Libya rebels deny promising France oil

As world leaders gathered in Paris to welcome the National Transitional Council into the international fold, the French daily Liberation published what it said was a letter from the rebels to the emir of Qatar.  

In it, Liberation said, the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya” tells the emir that it had struck a deal “to assign 35 percent of crude oil to France in exchange for its total and permanent support of our Council”.  

But the NTC’s ambassador in Paris, Mansur Seif al-Nasr, told AFP he had never heard of the “Popular Front” that apparently issued the letter, and added: “All documents, all valid treaties are signed by the NTC.”  

“The oil sector will be run in a transparent way and contracts will be awarded on merit, not political favouritism,” Guma al-Gamaty, the NTC’s representative in London, told AFP.  

Gamaty listed companies he said had a good track record in the Libyan oil sector over the past 15 years: Britain’s BP; France’s Total; ENI of Italy; and “major American companies”, without specifying which groups.  

“Their track record and experience and expertise of the Libyan oil sector put them in a strong position, however the principle will be still that contracts are awarded on merit and competitiveness,” he said.  

Asked if the NTC had come under pressure to award contracts to companies from Britain or France, which mobilised backing for the rebels in their effort to topple leader Muammar Qaddafi, Gamaty responded: “None whatsoever.”  

The head of Total, France’s biggest oil firm, said he had not heard about any specific promises to assign his country Libyan crude.  

“The 35 percent? I am not aware of that,” said chief executive Christophe de Margerie, adding the company’s priority was to restart production and help the Libyan people return to a normal life.  

In support of its report, Liberation printed an image of the letter, which it said was dated April 3.  

The leadership of the revolt was already known as the National Transitional Council (NTC) on April 3. An Internet search for the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya” finds only references to the letter.  

This image appears to be of a document that has been circulating on the Internet among opponents of French intervention in Libya since the first week of April without attracting the attention of professional media.  

References to the text of the letter appear in internet discussion forums from as early as April 3, when it was supposedly written.  

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he “had no knowledge” of any deal to secure Libyan oil, but said he thought it “fair and logical” that countries which supported the revolt would take part in any reconstruction.  

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the European Union decided to lift an assets freeze it had previously imposed on 28 Libyan firms, including ports and banks, to provide funds to the rebel leadership and kickstart the economy.  

“Our goal is to provide resources to the interim government and the Libyan people and help to make the economy function again,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.  

Ashton said Libyan ports as well as companies in the energy and banking sectors were among the firms that were removed from a blacklist of some 50 entities targeted by sanctions.

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French fountains site of protest against Total’s Brazil oil project

Fountains were tinted black in several French towns Saturday during protests against plans by oil giant Total to drill near a coral reef at the mouth of the Amazon.

French fountains site of protest against Total's Brazil oil project
Greenpeace activists stand in a fountain in Nantes. Photo: AFP

The protesters insist the plan threatens a “unique” natural habitat.

“The Amazon reef is not an oil well” and “Defend the Amazon reef,” read banners held aloft by supporters of Greenpeace and environmental group ANV-Cop21 as they converged on some 30 towns including Paris, Rennes in the west, Bordeaux in the south, and Nancy in the east.

At the stylish early nineteenth century Lions de Nubie fountain in Paris' La Villette district, some protesters daubed themselves with molasses, waded into the water and smeared the sticky black goo on the structure.

“Total insists on going after oil when there are ecosystems and jewels of (ecological) diversity to preserve. It's no longer the age of oil but of transition” to cleaner forms of energy, Greenpeace campaigner Edina Ifticene told AFP.

Photo: AFP

The protests came as Total was preparing to unveil the findings of a new study into the planned project's impact to Brazilian authorities.

Greenpeace has documented the existence of coral in the target area.

In late May, Brazil's environmental agency Ibama urged Total to look deeper into the consequences of drilling, judging its initial study “insufficient.”

“We have four months to respond. We are being asked to undertake extra studies and we shall do so,” Total chairman Patrick Pouyanne said at the time, insisting thecompany would ensure the plan respects the environment.

At the same time, the company rejected as “non-existent” the risks highlighted by opponents.

Greenpeace says the coral reef, discovered in 2016 — some three years after Total bought exploration blocks just a handful of kilometres (miles) away, is larger than first thought and extends into the area where Total wants to drill.

It is concerned of the effects of a potential oil spill on the ecosystem and nearby coastal mangrove.

“We have to stop this abuse. The oil firm should not drill near this ecosystem and near this mangrove which, if touched by an oil slick would be impossible to clean up,” insisted Ifticene.

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