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TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya will allow BP to begin drilling in its offshore deepwater region next month, despite the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the head of Libya's National Oil Co. said Sunday. Shokri Ghanem, who serves as Libya's de facto oil minister, said the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and the subsequent spill, were "tragic," but the oil industry is also moving into "new frontiers." "An accident will not stop us from digging in this new frontier," Ghanem said. "Life must go on, but we will learn a lot of lessons." Ghanem's comments are the latest confirmation by the OPEC nation that it was planning to honor the contract it signed with BP ( BP - news - people ) in 2007 to drill in the Libyan deepwater region of the Mediterranean Sea. BP has been battling sharp criticism over the incident which left 11 workers dead and millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The company has been struggling to contain the spill, but measures implemented so far have failed to completely staunch the flow of oil that has been washing ashore across the U.S. Gulf Coast and creating an environmental nightmare in the region. Ghanem said that drilling at such a depth makes it difficult to know exactly what is happening. "Accidents happen all the time. If an air crash takes place, we don't stop air traffic," said Ghanem. "So we have to continue but we take this step to learn more lessons," he said. Libya's proven oil reserves are the ninth-largest in the world, but vast areas remain unexplored. The country has been working to bring in foreign oil companies and investors after U.S. and U.N. sanctions were lifted several years ago. Amid mounting concerns that companies were ill-equipped to deal with the risks of deepwater drilling, President Barack Obama imposed a six month moratorium on deepwater drilling. But the step was struck down by a U.S. federal judge last week. Oil companies have increasingly been shifting to deepwater drilling as reserves more easily tapped are becoming increasingly hard to find. Ghanem said he met recently with Tony Hayward, BP's former chief executive officer who was replaced earlier this week because of the spill, and was assured that the company was doing its best. "I think that BP is a great company, with good experience," Ghanem said. "I told him we are honoring our commitment and we can start drilling next month."
Originally posted by KillenfizzenHumboflorator
Shokri Ghanem, who serves as Libya's de facto oil minister, said the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and the subsequent spill, were "tragic," but the oil industry is also moving into "new frontiers." "An accident will not stop us from digging in this new frontier," Ghanem said. "Life must go on, but we will learn a lot of lessons."