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MENAFN - AFP - 06/04/2014
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(MENAFN - AFP) Rebels seeking regional autonomy agreed Sunday to allow the reopening of two of four oil terminals in eastern Libya that they have blockaded since July, official news agency Lana reported.It said the announcement of a deal to reopen Zueitina and Al-Hariga terminals was made in Zueitina in the presence of government members and rebel chief Ibrahim Jodhran.The two sides have set a target of two to four weeks for a reopening of the other two terminals under blockade, at Ras Lanouf and Al-Sidra.Tripoli says the nine-month blockade of the export terminals has cost Libya more than 14 billion in lost oil revenues.The prospect of a return of Libyan oil to the market, after the blockade slashed exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to just 250,000, prompted a sharp dip in world prices on Thursday, before a rebound.With negotiations making progress, Libyan authorities on Monday released three rebels who had been detained on a tanker loaded with oil illegally loaded at one of the blockaded ports.Tripoli authorities deny there had been any direct talks with the rebels, insisting that negotiations had been conducted through intermediaries from the region's powerful tribes.Neither sidegave any details of the agreement under discussion.

But a source close to the negotiations said the rebels were demanding a referendum on restoring the autonomy that the eastern Cyrenaica region enjoyed for the first 12 years after Libyan independence in 1951.They were also demanding full back pay for their men, who were employed as security guards at the oil terminals before launching their blockade.The eastern oil terminals were a key battleground in the NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, changing hands several times before the rebels finally captured them.The source said that the talks were "serious" and that, if they bore fruit, it was proposed that the export terminal be the first to reopen.The head of the rebels' self-declared regional government, Jodhran, has said he decided to seek a solution "through dialogue to cut short foreign intervention".A Western diplomat in Tripoli said the rebels were "trying to find a way out of the crisis they created" with an abortive oil export attempt last month that prompted the intervention of the US Navy and a March 19 UN Security Council resolution outlawing all unauthorised Libyan oil exports.
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