Qatar makes oil payments to Libyan rebel group

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, May 9 -- Opponents to the rule of Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi are receiving payments from oil sales through a trust fund established in Qatar, according to officials familiar with the transactions.

A member of the oil and gas support group for Libya, confirming earlier reports about Doha’s role in the sales, said the payments for the Libyan crude are being made in US dollars through a bank account in Qatar.

The source said about 1 million bbl have so far been sold at $100 million. The money is being used by rebel forces to purchase basic commodities like food and other aid.

The oil and gas support group now has an office in Doha, and Qatar is helping to market the crude, with southern Europe being the main target market, the industry source said.

The oil and gas support group plans to repair the systems and restore oil recovery from Libya’s fields, said the source, who added that further plans for exports are uncertain at the moment.

In April, Qatar marketed 1 million bbl of oil on behalf of Libya’s Interim National Council (INC), according to a report by Qatar’s state news agency QNA.

Soon after the QNA announcement, the chairman of Libya's National Oil Corp. sent a letter of protest to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries about the help fellow member Qatar is giving to Libyan rebels with sales of oil (OGJ Online, Apr. 20, 2011).

Despite denials by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a stalemate prevails in much of Libya, with the fighting now increasingly focused on Misrata, the last city in the west held by rebels.

A rebel spokesman in Misrata said that there is fighting in the east, west, and south, including the areas of al-Ghiran, Bourouya, and Zeriq.

Another spokesman said rebels were still trying to extinguish fires at a fuel storage depot bombarded by the government on May 6.

The spokesman said that government forces used crop dusters to mount the attack. Four storage tanks were totally destroyed and an ensuing fire spread to four more tanks.

The government attack left Misrata without fuel, according to the spokesman, who said the tanks held about 3 months’ supply.

NATO last week dismissed claims that the fighting between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya has reached a stalemate.

"I personally don't think there is a real stalemate. Let's say we are going slowly but steady," said NATO Vice-Adm. Rinaldo Veri, brushing off concerns that Gadhafi's forces continued to lay siege to the oil port of Misrata, bombing the town and mining the harbor (OGJ Online, May 3, 2011).

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