BP to start drilling in Libya in 2010

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BP will start drilling in Libya next year, spending more than $1bn (£603m) on its two concessions in the controversial North African country, the company said yesterday.

The two enormous blocks – one the size of Kuwait in the offshore Sirte basin, the other the size of Belgium in the Sahara desert's Ghadames basin – are the company's biggest single exploration commitment and follow a deal signed with Libya's state-owned National Oil Company in 2007.

Hydrocarbon interests in Libya came under intense scrutiny recently in the fracas over Scotland's release of imprisoned Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds last August.

BP is also pursuing interests in Iraq, and the Baghdad Oil Ministry yesterday said the company's joint deal with China's CNPC to develop the "supergiant" Rumaila field is expected to be signed next week. Iraq has the world's third-largest oil resources.