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BP prepares to evacuate some staff from Libya

LONDON, Feb 21, 2011 – British energy giant BP was on Monday making preparations to evacuate some of its staff from Libya amid escalating unrest in the country, a spokesman told AFP.

"We\’re just monitoring the situation and making preparations to evacuate some of the families, and some non-essential staff in the next day or two," said the spokesman.

The company has about 140 staff in the country, mostly in Tripoli, about 40 of whom are expatriates, he said.

Some of those being prepared for evacuation were crew making drilling preparations in the west of the country in Ghadames, and as a result these preparations were being suspended.

"We are many years away from production, we haven\’t drilled a single well there yet," added the spokesman.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday that at least 233 people have been killed since Thursday in a crackdown in Libya on protests inspired by the uprisings in Libya\’s neighbours Egypt and Tunisia.

A 2007 accord with Tripoli allows BP to drill five wells in the Gulf of Sirte at depths of around 1,700 metres (5,500 feet), and drilling had been expected to begin later this year.

The deal has faced US criticism, with suspicions that BP pressed for the release on compassionate grounds of the Lockerbie bomber — something the oil giant denies.

Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi is the only person ever convicted of blowing up a US airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people, mostly Americans.

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BP\’s drilling operations are also under scrutiny following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year, which prompted the United States\’ worst ever environmental disaster.

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