Libyan security forces have put an end to a protest that closed off the headquarters of the country’s biggest oil company for two weeks, securing the offices and arresting some demonstrators overnight, officials said on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Benghazi-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) said last week the company had cut output by 30,000 barrels per day due to the protests, in a setback for Libya’s oil industry, which has recovered well since the end of last year’s conflict that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
However its parent company, the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC), denied the cut in production.
Protesters had prevented employees from entering Agoco’s office since April 23, calling for more transparency over how Libya’s new rulers are spending its money and demanding more jobs for young people.
“Forces from the high security committee arrived in the early hours. They are now in control and are checking the building,” Agoco spokesman Abdeljalil Mayuf said.
“Maybe we can start work there again tomorrow.”
Security forces said they arrived at around 3.00 a.m. They took down tents the protesters had set up in front of the main gate.
“We arrested about 30 people. Some of them were sleeping in tents, others were in nearby buildings,” Essam Al-Baggal, a security force commander, said. Another security official said weapons and alcohol had been found in nearby buildings.
Other protesters who were not present in front of the office during the night said they had still to decide what to do next, as they said an agreement was in the works.
Meetings have been held between civil society groups and the demonstrators but these failed to end the protests.
Agoco had threatened to cut production if no solution was found by May 3, and went on to reduce output.
Oil accounts for the bulk of Libya’s economy and exports. The North African country is close to returning to pre-war production of 1.6 million bpd, and its recovery contributed to a rise in output by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in April, despite a drop in Iranian supply.
Agoco, which produced 425,000 bpd of crude oil before the war, acted as the de facto state oil company of the Libyan uprising as international sanctions imposed during the conflict prevented dealings with the NOC.