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Shell agrees return to Libya
Shell was active in Libya between the 1950s and 1974.

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Moammar Gadhafi

LONDON, England -- Oil giant Shell has confirmed its return to Libya by signing a landmark agreement with the country's national oil company.

The news came as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair held an historic meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, once reviled as a pariah in the West.

The group said the tie-up involved the establishment of a long-term strategic partnership in the Libyan oil and gas industry.

The agreement was signed in Tripoli by Abdalla S El Badri, chairman of the management committee of Libya's National Oil Corporation, and Malcolm Brinded, chief executive officer of Shell exploration and production, the UK Press Association says.

The Anglo-Dutch group was active in Libya between the 1950s and 1974, while it also conducted exploration in the country in the late 1980s.

Thursday's agreement allows for Shell to be involved in onshore exploration and the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities.

Talks on specific projects will take place during the course of this year.

Brinded said: "I am delighted by the warm invitation to Shell from the Libyan National Oil Corporation to participate in the country's oil and gas industry.

"I look forward to our cooperation becoming a cornerstone in a renewed trade relationship between the UK and Libya.

"Today's landmark agreement provides a roadmap for future developments, which would involve Shell contributing to the efforts to enhance the country's production capabilities, and particularly its LNG export capacity."

Shell is among a number of UK companies interested in doing business in Libya.

They include defense group BAE Systems, which is thought to be in advanced negotiations with the North African state.

A Shell spokesman said the oil company had been in discussions on its potential involvement in Libya since establishing an office there in late 2001.

An official traveling with Blair on the plane to Tripoli told reporters the deal was worth $200 million, according to Reuters news agency.

Gary Samore, a senior fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told CNN that British and American oil companies would benefit from the political opening.

"Certainly they've been interested for a long in restoring business links, even while sanctions were in place," he said.

"I would expect to see a rush of British and American firms to take advantage of this political development." (Full story)

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