Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gadhafi Orders Sabotage to Oil Facilities

Time magazine's intelligence columnist reported on Tuesday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has ordered his security forces to sabotage the country's oil facilities, citing a source close to the government.

In a column posted on Time's website, Robert Baer said the sabotage would begin by blowing up pipelines to the Mediterranean. However he added that the same source had also told him two weeks ago that unrest in neighboring countries would never spread to Libya — an assertion that has turned out to be wrong.

"Among other things, Gadhafi has ordered security services to start sabotaging oil facilities," Baer wrote. "The sabotage, according to the insider, is meant to serve as a message to Libya's rebellious tribes: It's either me or chaos."
Gadhafi and Obama

 The growing violence in Libya has forced a number of oil companies to shut in production in Africa's third-largest oil producer and disrupted flows from the country's export terminals.

Security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya's oil-producing east last week. As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gadhafi.

Baer, a former Middle East CIA officer, said the source told him that as of Monday, Gadhafi had the loyalty of only about 5,000 of the country's 45,000-strong regular army.

Paraphrasing the source, he said that Gadhafi had also ordered the release from prison of the country's Islamist militant prisoners in hopes they would act on their own to sow chaos.

Meanwhile on the New York Stock Exchange:

Oil prices soared Tuesday amid deadly violence in Libya, the first major oil exporter to be hit with political turmoil that has spread across the Arab world.

As leader Muammar al-Gaddafi launched a brutal crackdown against anti-regime protesters and foreign workers fled, traders feared for the impact on oil supplies.

"The market continues to be very focused on the instability in the Middle East, and Libya in particular," said oil analyst John Kilduff.

"The violence against the people, Gaddafi now losing control of some of the regions, the defection of some of the military and even the diplomatic corps -- it has escalated the situation to a point where we are likely to lose, at least for a time, Libya's 1.1 million barrels a day to the oil market," he said.

Gaddafi's pledge to crush anti-regime protesters raised the stakes in an increasing bloody fight for control of the country, a fight that could halt oil shipments.

New York's WTI light sweet crude for March delivery closed at $93.57 a barrel, a gain of $7.37, or 8.5 percent, from Friday's close. There was no settlement Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange due to a public holiday.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April slipped four cents to settle at $105.78 a barrel, after hitting $108.57, a peak last seen on September 4, 2008.

Libya, which has Africa's largest oil reserves and is the continent's fourth largest producer, is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the cartel that produces about 40 percent of global supplies.

Speaking on the sidelines of a producer-consumer meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said OPEC was prepared to meet any shortage of supplies.

"There is absolutely no shortage of supply now... OPEC is ready to meet any shortage in supply when it happens," Naimi said.
 "There is concern and fear but there is no shortage," the minister reiterated in a bid to assure consumer countries that crude oil supplies are guaranteed despite sweeping unrest.

Meanwhile, OPEC said its reference basket of 12 crude oils had breached the $100 barrier on Monday, at $100.59, the highest level in two and a half years.

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