Key Libyan oil and oil product terminals to the east of the capital are in the hands of rebels who have seized control from leader Moammar Gadhafi, said residents of Benghazi who are in touch with people in region.
The residents told Reuters on Thursday the oil and product terminals at Ras Lanuf and Marsa El Brega were being protected. Soliman Karim, a resident involved with helping administer the eastern city of Benghazi, said exports, a vital source of income for OPEC-member Libya, were continuing. A second resident suggested flows might have been affected.
The information could not immediately be confirmed from those operating the terminals.
"Regarding Ras Lanuf, a large port for exporting oil, and el Brega, and the gas pipelines from the desert to the ports ... the (anti-Gadhafi) revolutionaries have taken control of them," said Karim, a 65-year-old lawyer involved in committees set up to run Benghazi that is now outside Gadhafi's rule, said.
"Exports are going on as usual, the same amount as have been agreed before," he said, adding that his sources were people in the area where the rebels are in charge.
"The revolutionaries are protecting these areas because they are vital areas. We don't want them sabotaged and we don't want them to stop exporting oil," Karim added.
Another resident of Benghazi, who was only identified as Tawfik, also said Ras Lanuf and Marsa el Brega were no longer in the hands of Gadhafi's forces. But he suggested there may have been some impact on flows.
The telephone line to Tawfik was cut before more details could be obtained.
Unrest in the world's 12th-biggest exporter has cut at least 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Libya's 1.6 million bpd output, according to Reuters calculations.
Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italian oil major Eni said Libyan output had fallen much more dramatically, estimating it was putting 1.2 million barrels per day less into the market.
Fighting between Gadhafi loyalists and rebels opposed to his rule has broken out in towns much closer to the capital Tripoli.
Swathes of Libya, a producer in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to the east of Tripoli are now under rebel supervision including Benghazi, a city that lies to the north of Libya's main hydrocarbon region.
Karim said Gadhafi might be seeking to disrupt the oil industry.
"Yesterday the regime tried to blow up the gas and oil pipeline but one of the 'free pilots' ejected and left the plane to crash in the desert," Karim said, suggesting the military might not be cooperating with orders.
The Ras Lanuf oil terminal is located in the Gulf of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast about 600 km (375 miles) east of Tripoli and loads oil and petrochemical products. The offshore oil export terminal consists of two berths.
Marsa El Brega, located south of Benghazi, is also in the Gulf of Sirte. It is used for crude oil and petrochemical products.
Gadaffi Blames Bin Laden
Gadaffi blamed a revolt against his rule on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and said that as Libyan leader he only had "moral authority."
Gadhafi, speaking by telephone to Libyan television, offered his condolences for those who were killed in the bloodshed and called for calm amongst people he said were fighting amongst themselves and taking hallucinogenic drugs.
Saying bin Laden was "the real criminal," Gadhafi urged Libyans not be swayed by the al Qaeda leader.
"Bin Laden ... this is the enemy who is manipulating people," Gadhafi said, adding: "Do not be swayed by bin Laden."
"I only have moral authority," he said, who has long sought to present himself as a leader of a revolution that is led by the people, rather than a traditional executive head of state.
"No sane person" would join the protests against his rule, Gadhafi said and called on citizens to take weapons from those who were protesting.
Referring to violent clashes taking place in the town of Zawiyah, about 50 km (30 miles) from the capital Tripoli, Gadhafi said, "What is happening in Zawiyah is a farce. ... Sane men don't enter such a farce."
"Leave the country calm," he told Libyans.
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