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Nigerian Oil Delta Peace Talks to Resume After Truce

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Nigerian Oil Delta Peace Talks to Resume After Truce

“Nigeria’s top producer, Royal Dutch Shell Group, said it evacuated more than 200 workers from two oilfields located near fighting, and closed one flow station pumping 28,000 barrels per day.”

By REUTERS

Published: September 30, 2004

Filed at 5:03 a.m. ET

ABUJA (Reuters) – The leader of a Nigerian rebel militia, whose threats to the nation’s oil industry have lifted world oil prices, said peace talks would resume on Thursday following a truce agreed with the government.

Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who leads the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, had threatened to launch “all-out war on the Nigerian state” starting on Friday unless the government agreed to discuss autonomy and more revenue for the oil-producing Niger Delta region.

“We are due to meet today at 10 a.m. (5 a.m. EDT),” Asari told Reuters.

Asked if he was optimistic a deal could be reached, he said: “The president has set no preconditions for the talks. We told them we are leaving today after the talks.”

Another delta warlord, Ateke Tom, who had been fighting against Asari, was also due to participate, organizers said.

Asari’s fighters, thousands of well-armed youths of the Ijaw tribe, have fought sporadic battles since last year with troops and rival militia in the creeks and mangrove swamps of the delta which pumps almost all of Nigeria’s 2.3 million barrels per day.

The group issued a communique on Monday telling foreign nationals to leave the delta immediately and Asari advised oil companies in the world’s seventh largest exporter to shut down.

The communique demanded talks on self-determination, resource control and the holding of a Sovereign National Conference to renegotiate the terms of the Nigerian federation.

Oil prices broke above $50 per barrel for the first time on Monday after Asari issued the communique, as dealers saw a further tightening of already precarious global oil supply.

U.S. futures fell 14 cents to $49.37 a barrel on Thursday, having dropped more than a dollar on word of the truce.

Multinationals have largely ignored the warning, but they have stepped up security in the vast area which produces almost all of the OPEC nation’s oil.

Nigeria’s top producer, Royal Dutch Shell Group, said it evacuated more than 200 workers from two oilfields located near fighting, and closed one flow station pumping 28,000 barrels per day.

Companies fear a repeat of last year’s uprising by members of the Ijaw tribe, who predominate in the delta, which forced them briefly to shut 40 percent of Nigeria’s 2.3 million barrel-per-day oil production.

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