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No date yet for Nigeria Delta return-ChevronTexaco
Fri April 4, 2003 05:43 AM ET
LAGOS, April 4 (Reuters) - ChevronTexaco CVX.N said on Friday it was encouraged by a return to calm around its main Nigerian export terminal, but had still not set a date for restarting production there.

Ethnic clashes forced it to evacuate in mid-March.

More than 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) -- 40 percent of Nigeria's 2.2 million bpd oil output -- has been down since Royal Dutch Shell RD.AS SHEL.L and ChevronTexaco pulled their workers out of the western part of the Niger Delta, following clashes between militant Ijaw and Itsekiri youths in which dozens died.

ChevronTexaco sent some staff back to its Escravos terminal over the last week for maintenance and preparation for eventually restarting production.

"We're pretty encouraged by the status of things on the ground around Escravos, and we've been greatly encouraged by the discussions we've been having with government officials," said company spokesman Andy Norman, without giving further details.

ChevronTexaco has said the talks with the government centre around security concerns in and around its terminal and a network of wells it was also forced to abandon.

There have been no new reports of violence in the area for nearly a fortnight, but there are fears the military will soon launch an offensive against Ijaw militants who forced the oil majors to evacuate.

Military sources say over a dozen soldiers were killed by Ijaws, and human rights groups have expressed concerned that soldiers seeking revenge may launch indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Hundreds died in retaliatory attacks on civilians by the military elsewhere in the country in 1999 and 2001.

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