updated 2/28/2011 11:17:28 AM ET 2011-02-28T16:17:28

Libya's oil chief says production is down 50 percent because of the exodus of foreign oil workers fleeing the country's violent uprising against leader Moammar Gadhafi.

But Shukri Ghanem, the head of the National Oil Co., told The Associated Press on Monday that all of Libya's oil installations are protected and safe, and disputed comments by the European Union's energy commissioner who said the major fields had been wrested from Gadhafi's hands.

Ghanem said that all the refineries, installations and oil fields are "safe and protected." He said that tankers are loading at the port in Brega as well as other ports.

Ghanem said it was safe for foreign workers to return.

International companies have been evacuating their foreign staff because of the violence.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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