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Libya plans to ship crude from Tobruk by end of September

By Emma Farge

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libya plans to restart production at two eastern oil fields in mid-September and resume shipping oil from Tobruk by the end of the same month, offering relief to European countries reliant on its imports.

Oil production in the OPEC country has been at a virtual stand-still for months as clashes between rebels and troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have damaged infrastructure and caused foreign workers to flee.

This has forced global economies to pay more than $100 a barrel for Brent crude since the civil war began in February and driven up import costs for major buyers like Italy, Germany and France.

"Operations will start on September 15 and by the end of the month we will have the capability to export from Tobruk," Abdeljalil Mayuf, spokesman for Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) told Reuters, referring to the Sarir and Mesla fields deep in the Libyan desert.

He said technical teams would be sent out to the fields after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends, in the first week of September.

Initial production will be at around 60,000-100,000 barrels per day and any further increase would depend on the condition of underground wells, he said. Some of this oil will be used to feed AGOCO refineries in east Libya once they restart, he said.

DAMAGE

The oilfields in eastern Libya were damaged by troops loyal to Gaddafi during the country's civil war, killing 14 oil workers.

The damage has now been repaired, AGOCO said, while rebel officials say they have set up a special security force to protect oil infrastructure from saboteurs.

Around 80 percent of Libyan oil fields are in the east of the country around the Sirte basin, with rebel fighters now in control of the key oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf.

AGOCO has a total production capacity of around 420,000 barrels per day, or around a quarter of the country's total output before the war began.

Mayuf did not say if former supply contracts negotiated before the war would be respected.

"This will be arranged with the marketing department. There are many clients to choose from."

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Writing by Emma Farge and Christian Lowe; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)

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