BP Plc for the Libyan well and says it has prepared extensively for the operation.

Just like with any deepwater exploration activity, we have undertaken extensive, rigorous and detailed preparations with our contractors and by ourselves for this drilling, Nicholas said.

The investigation is still ongoing into exactly what happened in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. But any of the lessons coming out of those investigations will be applied to all of our operations worldwide.

BP signed the exploration and production agreement with Libya's National Oil Corp in 2007, after the lifting of international sanctions on Libya removed legal barriers to doing business in the North African country.

Libya has said it is happy for the drilling to go ahead.

If you have an air crash you don't stop air travel in the whole world, said Shokri Ghanem, NOC chairman, last month. He said the spill in the Gulf was exaggerated somewhat.

(Editing by James Jukwey)