* Govt official says in talks with Russian, Chinese firms
* ENI is bizggest foreign oil company in Libya
* Firm pulled out staff after outbreak of violence (Updates with ENI declining to comment, background)
TRIPOLI, July 7 (Reuters) - Libya’s government has begun negotiations with Russian and Chinese energy firms on taking over ENI’s projects in Libya after the Italian firm withdrew its staff, a senior Libyan government official said.
“This withdrawal happened without warning and the Libyan state has started negotiating with big Russian and Chinese oil companies to enter into a partnership in these investments,” the official, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters on Thursday.
The official did not identify the firms with which the Libyan government was negotiating. Contacted by Reuters, a spokesman for ENI declined to comment.
ENI withdrew its international staff from Libya earlier this year after violence broke out when thousands of people rebelled against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The firm, along with other international oil companies with investments in Libya, has since establised contacts with anti-Gaddafi rebels based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
ENI, present in Libya since the 1950s, is the biggest foreign oil company there, producing 270,000 boed (barrels of oil equivalent per day) in 2010. Its contracts are in force to 2042 for oil production and 2047 for gas.
Chief Executive Paolo Scaroni said in May that ENI’s contracts in Libya are international contracts and “if they should be violated the result would be an international dispute that would be particularly serious for a country like Libya that has a lot of money abroad.”
Other big investors in Libyan energy include Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L), France’s Total , BP Plc , Norway’s Statoil and Austria’s OMV . (Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes in Milan, Italy; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Anthony Barker)