Libyan rebels ask to represent country at OPEC

By Michelle Faul

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 18 2011 11:46 a.m. MDT

BENGHAZI, Libya — The rebels who are fighting to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have a new goal — they want to represent the oil-producing country at the next OPEC meeting.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, made up of 12 nations including Libya, is scheduled to meet on June 8 in Vienna.

Jalal Gallal, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council, told reporters Wednesday that the rebel group has sent a request to OPEC to allow them to represent Libya at the oil bloc's next meeting.

He did not want to name the official the rebels hope to send until they've had a response from OPEC. Gallal said he did not know when the request was sent.

OPEC meetings generally were attended by Gadhafi's oil minister. However the minister, Shukri Ghanem, was reported to have defected and fled the country earlier this week. Ghanem also was head of Libya's National Oil Co.

The rebels have declined to comment on Ghanem's flight until he announces whether he backs their cause.

Libya, which once produced about 1.6 million barrels per day of crude, is now pumping just a trickle of that volume. The fighting, attacks by Gadhafi forces, a NATO-enforced no-fly zone and partial naval blockade have limited exports and imports.

In April, the Gulf state of Qatar helped the rebels complete the sale of 1 million barrels of crude that netted roughly $129 million for the anti-Gadhafi forces.

The rebels have said in recent days that they are unlikely to be able to produce more oil for weeks because equipment needs repairs, and the workers in the fields fear attack by Gadhafi's forces.

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