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Libya Wants Greater Share of Its Oil Revenue

Libya says it will work to convince three U.S. oil companies currently "stalling" to sign revised contracts giving the North African nation a greater share of its oil production, in the latest indication that the OPEC member is grappling with falling crude prices.

A statement posted on the Web site of the National Oil Company identified the companies as ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Amerada Hess, and said the national Oil and Gas Affairs Council agreed during a Feb. 28 meeting to "continue discussions with the oil companies that are still stalling in agreeing to contractual revisions put forward by the National Oil Co."

The statement also named Germany's Wintershall AG.

The three U.S. companies comprise what was formerly known in Libya as the Oasis Group. They hold minority stakes in the Waha concessions, which are operated by NOC subsidiary Waha Oil. The area produces about 350,000 barrels per day, according to figures posted on Marathon's Web site.

Libya has already revised exploration and production sharing contracts with a number of major international oil companies, including Petro-Canada, Italy's Eni, Spain's Repsol and the U.S.'s Occidental Petroleum. In all, analysts estimate that the new contracts will bring in over $20 billion for Libya over the coming decade.

The statement on the NOC's Web site said the contractual revisions reflected the current economic conditions.

Under a 2005 deal that allowed U.S. firms to again operate in Libya after years of sanctions, Conoco and Marathon each secured a 16.33 percent stake in the Waha concessions while Hess got an 8.17 percent stake.

But as oil prices have fallen by about $100 per barrel from mid-July highs of nearly $150, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' members have been struggling with declining oil revenues and an inability to engineer a meaningful rebound in prices.

In comments that have baffled many, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in January floated the idea of nationalizing the oil sector to ensure the country is first to benefit from its key resource. But analysts, diplomats and oil executives have said the remarks may be more likely aimed at pressing oil companies to accede to the new terms.

Gadhafi has also repeatedly suggested dismantling the government and distributing the oil wealth directly to the people — an idea discussed by the Basic People's Congresses, which are Libya's most basic legislative bodies.

After years as a pariah state, sanctioned by the U.S. for supporting terrorism, Libya has re-emerged on the international scene looking to attract investment. It has been courting international firms and investing its oil wealth in Europe.

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