BP Plc said on Tuesday it wanted to return to Libya and resume oil and gas exploration work, which it halted earlier this year due to the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

London-based BP has no oil and gas production in Libya and in February was preparing for the start of exploratory drilling in western Libya when it suspended the effort due to the revolt against Gaddafi's 42-year reign.

We are absolutely planning to go back in and all the signals are that people want us to and expect us to come back, BP's Chief Executive Bob Dudley told reporters on Tuesday.

It's just a matter of time and we'll begin an exploration programme.

The comments suggest BP expects Libya's new rulers will honour its Gaddafi-era exploration agreement in Libya, a $900 million deal signed in 2007 which BP at the time called its largest single exploration commitment.

Despite some signs Libyan officials are prepared to look again at old contracts, Royal Dutch Shell officials held talks with Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) earlier this month and pre-war agreements between the two would be honoured, a source in Libya told Reuters.

Like BP, its Anglo-Dutch rival Shell was also doing exploration work in Libya. Industry analysts have said the two companies may benefit as a result of Britain's early support of the uprising against Gaddafi.

Libya was Africa's third-largest oil producer until the conflict led to a shutdown in supplies. Oil companies including Eni and Total have already resumed some of their Libyan output.

BP has about 90 local employees in Libya, a company spokesman said. It pulled out about 80 expatriate staff and their dependents in February, who have yet to return.

The company was planning to drill two wells in Libya, one offshore and one onshore.

We remain enthused about the exploration prospects of those two wells, Dudley said at a news conference to discuss BP's third-quarter earnings.