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Syrian rebel oil sales at least a month off

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Julia Payne

LONDON (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition will not be able to sell its crude oil for at least another month due to a lack of real executive power, even though the EU has eased an embargo to help them, a prominent member of the Syrian National Council said on Monday.

European Union governments agreed on Monday to ease sanctions on Syria to allow for purchases of crude from the opposition, in hopes of throwing a financial lifeline to rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Britain has also been pushing the EU to ease the arms embargo against Syria in favour of the opposition.

However, the opposition still does not have a provisional government to oversee possible sales as the coalition must still receive and then approve a proposal for a potential new leadership.

"Without an interim government, nothing can be done now," Osama Al-Qadi, general director of the Syrian economic task force under the umbrella of the opposition's coalition told Reuters.

"By the end of the month, an interim government proposal will be submitted to the coalition for approval."

The Syrian National Council is a large Muslim Brotherhood-influenced bloc within the opposition group called the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.

Once an interim government is appointed, he expected governmental agreements to be pursued.

"Then we will sign some agreements with neighbouring countries to buy our crude, like Turkey," he said.

Meanwhile, the coalition has no control over crude oil that is already leaving the country by truck from the north east.

"We consider this smuggling. They are wasting Syrian wealth," Qadi added, since the revenues were not going towards the future of the country, but for personal gain.

Locals are also using some oil in crudely made backyard refineries to produce some low grade fuels for domestic consumption.

Two major oil companies said the Syrian opposition has yet to approach them about buying or selling crude and the logistics are difficult due to a lack of infrastructure and on-going fighting.

"There is no physical way to export oil from Syria except on trucks via Turkey - and that's if they manage to produce it," one industry source said.

As the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and different rebel groups enters its third year, secondary conflicts have started to emerge over influence and resources such as oil.

Rebels and local tribes in Deir al-Zor accuse each other of stealing oil from fields in Syria's most energy-rich region.

Total, Shell, China's CNPC, India's ONGC and Aim-listed independent Gulfsands were the main foreign oil companies operating in Syria prior to the outbreak of the war in 2011.

The latest U.S. government data indicate oil production in Syria was 153,000 barrels per day in October 2012, a nearly 60 percent decline from March 2011.

(Additional reporting by Peg Mackey, editing by William Hardy)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130422/syrian-rebel-oil-sales-at-least-month