Qatar confirms sale of Libyan oil; NATO allies quarrel

Qatar has marketed 1 million bbl of oil on behalf of Libya’s Interim National Council (INC) and has delivered four shipments of petroleum products to the country’s eastern port of Benghazi.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 13 -- Qatar has marketed 1 million bbl of oil on behalf of Libya’s Interim National Council (INC) and has delivered four shipments of petroleum products to the country’s eastern port of Benghazi.

“One million bbl of Libyan crude oil [has] so far been marketed,” said a report by Qatar’s state news agency QNA, which further said, “Two other shipments were also shipped from Tobruk the main oil hub in the east of Libya.”

QNA said, “Qatar has delivered through its state-owned International Petroleum Marketing Co (Tasweeq) four shipments of oil products to the Libyan city of Benghazi.”

QNA said the move was taken according to the directives of Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani “to ease the suffering of the Libyan brethren and to meet their humanitarian needs.”

The move also comes within the context of resolutions taken by the participating countries in the London conference on Libya held on Mar. 29, QNA said.

“The participants then welcomed Qatar’s offer to facilitate marketing of Libyan oil in accordance within international resolutions and in particular the Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 which call for using Libya’s oil revenues to provide humanitarian needs to the Libyan people,” QNA said.

Energy traders widely believed Qatar had brokered the deal, but Doha had not previously confirmed its role. A spokesman for state-owned Qatar Petroleum, declined to comment on the shipment even as late as Apr. 12.

"The fact that they're confirming it is new, but it's not really surprising," said one oil analyst. "What's important about it…is that the Qataris are essentially absorbing some of the risk in marketing it."

A source at the Ministry of Energy and Industry said the four products shipments to Benghazi were delivered after “intensive deliberations” with concerned consumers to provide quick assistance to the Libyan people. The shipments included diesel, gasoline, and LPG butane.

The source pointed that the ITC had nominated Arabian Gulf Oil Co. (Agoco) as its sole representative in any transactions taking place.

The source told QNA that Qatar would “continue to offer support to Agoco in marketing and selling Libyan oil to extend a lifeline to the Libyan people under the harsh circumstances in Libya.”

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Qatar's actions were supported by Washington, DC, a statement that emerged as the US and other members of the Libya contact group met Apr. 13 in Doha to review the situation in the North African country.

At today’s meeting the UK’s Foreign Sec. William Hague called for the international community to provide temporary financial support to eastern Libya’s ruling LNTC.

”Our resolve should be strong and our ambition should be high because if we are successful in this undertaking we will have saved lives, helped Libyans choose their own future, and helped restore stability in a vital part of the world at a time of great crisis,” Hague said.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the meeting in Doha would discuss ways of giving the rebels access to Libyan government funds frozen as part of international action against the regime in Tripoli.

“I think this discussion of a trust fund is very interesting and we will look into it,” said Westerwelle, adding, “This frozen international money, if it is government money, belongs to the Libyan people.”

The Qatar meeting took place amid growing disagreements over how to continue action by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the first weeks of bombing raids failed to dislodge Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi.

France and the UK have been especially critical of NATO’s handling of the intervention, saying it has not been sufficiently forceful.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said NATO's actions are "not enough" and that the alliance should be firing on the weapons being used by Gadhafi's troops to target civilians in the town of Misrata.

Juppe spoke on France-Info radio, the day after Libyan rebels rejected a ceasefire proposal by African mediators because it did not insist that Gadhafi relinquish power.

"NATO has to play its role in full. NATO wanted to take the military command of the operations," Juppe said. He also urged the EU to do more to get humanitarian aid to Misrata.

But Dutch Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm, a NATO commander, rejected the criticism saying that the alliance was successful in enforcing an arms embargo, patrolling a no fly zone and protecting civilians.

"I think with the assets we have, we're doing a great job," said Van Uhm.

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