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bari32TRIPOLI: Libya could proceed with a new round of oil exploration and production agreements in the current transtional period but the priority for now is to maintain pre-war output levels and future targets, the OPEC member's new oil minister told Reuters.

 

"Our priority is to maintain the production at 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd)," Abdelbari al-Arusi said in his first major interview with international media since he was sworn in last month.

 

"We now have our target to increase production (by) 100,000 barrels per day for the coming few months and then we're planning to drill more wells to increase our production rate."

 

The North African country has lifted oil output faster than analysts had expected after last year's war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi to a current level of around 1.5-1.6 million bpd.

 

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) aims to boost oil output to 1.72 million bpd by the end of March, its chairman said last month, but warned of the risk that strikes could interrupt production.

 

Arusi reiterated Libya's target of increasing output to 2 million bpd by 2015. Replacing Abdulrahman Ben Yazza, the minister from the western town of Zawiyah took office a few weeks ago as part of an interim government in place until a new round of elections after a constitution is drafted next year.

 

He said Libya would review its last round of Exploration and Production Sharing Agreements (EPSA), signed under the Gaddafi regime, and "come up with the right solution for new negotiations in the future".

 

"Our period here will only be 15 months and we're going to work on both sides - short-term and long-term plans," he said.

 

"This EPSA IV will be reviewed for the interest of the Libyans and for our partners. A lot of companies have complained about this EPSA IV; we don't like people to lose, because this is a win-win business."

 

Asked if Libya was likely to see another licensing round within the next 15 months: "Could be, I am not sure, could be; it depends on the situation here in Libya".

 

Speaking ahead of OPEC's Dec. 12 meeting in Vienna, Arusi said oil prices at around $110 a barrel were "reasonable".

 

Copyright Reuters, 2010