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ZueitinaTRIPOLI: The first oil shipment out of Libya's Zueitina's terminal will be in mid-February after the port was closed down last month by protesters, the head of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Sunday.

 

No oil has been shipped out of Zueitina, which exports around 60,000-70,000 barrels per day, since the start of January due to protests that began in December. A crude shipment left the terminal around end-December.

 

Protesters' threats affected mainly the shipping of oil rather than gas, because there had been a safe shutdown of the oil fields pumping to the terminal. Libya's top oil officials have since given the go-ahead to resume operations.

 

"On Jan. 14, I sent a message to Zueitina to begin working right away," NOC Chairman Nuri Berruein told Reuters.

 

"All the fields that were affected are now functioning and pumping to Zuietina and the first shipment will be sent off in the middle of February."

 

Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi, along with NOC officials and Zueitina management flew to the terminal on Tuesday, for what officials called "positive talks" with the demonstrators, who have since left the terminal.

 

In December, protesters calling for jobs and other social demands forced their way into Zueitina port's management offices and ordered the port director to shut down operations.

 

Oil installations have become a focal point of protests in OPEC member Libya in the wake of July polls that ushered in the country's first elected authorities.

 

The administration is still struggling to impose order on a vast and divided country awash with arms and militias after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in late 2011.

 

Copyright Reuters, 2010