Libya's silence on oil deals a setback for transparency

Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:07am EST
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By Jessica Donati and Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LONDON/TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya will not reveal the details of its oil sales this year, National Oil Corporation (NOC) officials told Reuters this week, stepping back from pledges to deliver greater transparency after the corruption of the pre-revolutionary regime.

Oil producers commonly keep the details of crude deals secret, yet Libyan officials promised to publish the details of oil deals after over 40 years of secrecy under deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The state firm revealed who would buy Libya's oil in 2012 and began releasing information on prices and volumes of oil shipments on its website - but this lasted just two months, ending in 2011.

Libya's NOC chairman, Nuri Berruien, said any secrecy clauses were introduced at the request of clients, not the NOC, and that most of last year's buyers would continue to purchase its oil.

The state firm would resume publishing details on its yearly activities, he said.

"I have asked them (marketing department) to put all of the activities undertaken last year on the website, like an annual report. I am surprised it is taking this long, but it will be there," Berruien said.

But plans to address past corruption have also halted. The committee the National Transitional Council (NTC) set up in late 2011 to probe Gaddafi-era oil deals made little progress due to the slow handover of documentation, according to one of its members.

That committee was dissolved with the transitional authorities after July elections for the General National Congress and no taskforce has yet been set up in its place to investigate Gaddafi-era oil deals.   Continued...

Oil tanks of Zawiya oil refinery are pictured in Zawiya 57km (35 miles) west of Tripoli April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny