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Exclusive: Vitol and Trafigura supply fuel to Syria

By Claire Milhench and Jessica Donati

LONDON (Reuters) - Swiss oil traders Vitol and Trafigura are supplying fuel to Syria, dealers said Friday, despite a bloody military crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's security forces against protesters that has cost hundreds of lives.

Sytrol, Syria's state-owned oil company, agreed to buy two 30,000 ton cargoes of gasoline, one apiece from Vitol and Trafigura, in a tender on the oil market that closed this week, several trading sources with knowledge of the deals said.

The two trading houses did not respond to requests for comment.

At current market prices the oil will cost Syria about $60 million.

It is not known yet where Vitol and Trafigura will source the gasoline, but it is likely to come from Mediterranean refineries in Italy, France or Spain.

The two privately held trading firms are among the richest of global oil dealers, Vitol with 2010 annual turnover of $195 billion and Trafigura with an estimated $79 billion.

The sales come as the mounting death toll in Syria increases pressure on Western governments to impose tougher sanctions against Damascus.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged importing countries to stop buying Syrian oil. Foreign companies that operate in Syria include Royal Dutch Shell and France's Total.

But EU officials say that more robust steps against Syrian economic interests that might include the oil sector are unlikely even to be discussed before the end of the EU's August summer break. [ID:nLDE77912W].

Syria's oil industry generates most of the state's hard currency from crude output of 380,000 barrels a day.

There is no suggestion yet that deliveries of gasoline or other refined fuels into Syria would be targeted by sanctions.

While Syria exports crude oil, its refinery capacity is not sufficient to meet domestic demand for fuel. Typically it has to import two or three cargoes of gasoline a month.

(Writing by Simon Falush, additional reporting by Emma Farge, editing Richard Mably)

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