Libya announced a new round of bidding for the rights to hunt for oil as the world's energy giants flock back to the former pariah state that is now flush with Western investment.
The state-owned National Oil Corp has invited the world's major oil firms to participate in the third oil licensing auction for 41 blocs, a spokesman for the company told reporters yesterday.
They have until Sept. 9 to put forward their proposals, and the blocs will be carved up on Dec. 20, he added.
The head of the national oil company, former prime minister Shukri Ghanem, said in June that Libya wanted to increase oil production from 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) now to 2 million bpd by 2007 and 3 million bpd in 2010.
The US bombed Libya and imposed broad economic sanctions following the bombing of a discotheque in West Berlin frequented by US military personnel in April 1986.
But in recent years Libya has come in from the cold, renouncing a previously secret program to build weapons of mass destruction.
US and European sanctions on Libya were lifted in 2004, and in January the following year US oil companies walked away with most of the 15 contracts on offer at the first post-sanctions open licence auction.
In October 2005, Libya awarded 44 oil exploration permits to predominantly Asian and European companies.
Libya sits atop proven oil reserves of about 36 billion barrels, according to the OPEC oil cartel of which the north African country is a member, but the actual figure could be much higher.