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BP says commits to Libyan exploration campaign

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - BP will drill 17 new exploration wells in Libya, both onshore and offshore, the first since a "force majeure" was lifted in May this year following disruption caused by the 2011 war, a senior official said on Thursday.

"We have lifted force majeure and started the exploration program in Libya," Jasper Peijs, the company's exploration manager-eastern hemisphere, told an African oil conference.

He said BP had continued to pay its Libyan national staff during the uprising and kept the operations base on standby.

Peijs did not give a timeline for the drilling, although officials at Libya's National Oil Co indicated in September BP would start drilling in 2013.

"Offshore we have acquired 17,000 square kilometers of 3-D seismic in the Sirte Basin, another commitment to five exploration wells and onshore we've acquired 14,000 square kilometers of 3-D in the Ghadames Basin and have a commitment of 12 exploration wells," Peijs said.

OPEC member Libya, which has Africa's largest crude reserves, aims to raise its oil production to 1.8 million barrels per day in 2013, even though security in the country remains precarious.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by David Holmes)

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