Libya's top oil official said yesterday his country is keen to invest in oil-and-gas exploration off Cyprus' southern coast.

Shukri Ghanem said Libya is "very much interested in looking at different possibilities of investment" in a search for oil and gas deposits inside the island's exclusive economic zone.

Ghanem, who is the chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation, did not elaborate.

He was speaking to newsmen shortly after exploratory talks in Nicosia with Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides.

The Libyan Oil Minister said he aspired that the "productive dialogue" initiated yesterday would continue in Tripoli.

Cyprus launched an initial licensing round in 2007 for 11 blocks covering 51,000 square kilometers (17,000 sq. miles) of seabed. Officials said a second licensing round will be launched, but have not said exactly when.

Ghanem said Libya is also looking into supplying the crude-reliant island with natural gas and investing in its energy sector.

With approximately 40 billion barrels of oil, Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, in addition to considerable gas resources. It is Africa's third biggest oil producer, pumping around 2 million barrels a day.

Paschalides said Libya had expressed an interest in participating in a planned energy infrastructure project in Cyprus involving the construction of a massive facility with both crude-oil plants and a re-gasification terminal for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

The minister described Libya as having "considerable capabilities" in oil drilling, and confirmed the African country was interested in the next round of licensing for oil and gas exploration off Cyprus' coast.

The two sides discussed ways of boosting trade ties, including among other things the prospect of establishing direct flights.

Cyprus has also been sounding off Algeria and Russia for a possible LNG supply deal, but the result of these talks is still unclear. An official visit to Cairo earlier this month yielded little more than an agreement to share technical know-how in the areas of oil exploration and exploitation.

"Cyprus wants to have a number of [potential] suppliers so that we can assess and weigh different options, not just one," said Paschalides.

There is no official ETA on the LNG re-gasification terminal, which will make it possible for Cyprus to switch to the cleaner, cheaper natural gas. It is thought the facility should be ready by 2014 or 2015.

This month the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, who is to run the facility, invited investors to express interest in the LNG venture. The prequalification process ends on May 29.