CAIRO (AP) — The US embassy in Libya expressed concern Thursday over the struggle for control of the Libyan oil corporation after its president was fired by one of Libya’s two rival governments.
The embassy tweeted that US officials are following the developments with “deep concern.” He added that the National Petroleum Corporation has preserved its political independence and has worked effectively under the leadership of President Mustafa Sanalla, in a sign of US support for him.
That came a day after the Tripoli-based government of Abdul Hamid Dbeibah announced the removal of Sanallah and the appointment of Farhat Bengdara, a former governor of Libya’s central bank, as the country’s new oil chief. Dbeibah also announced the appointment of a four-member commission to oversee the transfer. It occurred when Sanallah and his board were out of the office celebrating the Eid El Adha festivities.
Sanallah has refused to step down, arguing in a televised speech that Dbeibah’s government lacked legitimacy.
“The informed replacement of the NOC board can be challenged in court, but should not become the object of an armed confrontation,” the US Embassy said.
Earlier on Thursday, the NOC issued a statement saying that military vehicles belonging to a Dbeibah-allied militia were parked inside its compound. The NOC statement said it would hold Dbeibah responsible for any attempt to disrupt its work.
In a video circulated on social media, NOC staff appeared to gather at the entrance to the NOC building to prevent Dbeibah-appointed commission members from intervening. Later, however, the Dbeibah government announced that both the commission and the new oil chief had entered the building and taken over.
The North African country has been wracked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising that turned into a civil war toppled then killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. For many years, Libya has been divided between two administrations. , one in the east and one in the west, each backed by foreign governments and local militias.
The country’s prized light crude oil has long been a feature of Libya’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers vying for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
In its statement, the US embassy called on all parties to restore oil and gas production to address electricity shortages and a “transparent” mechanism for oil revenue management and oversight. .
In recent months, tribal leaders have shut down crucial oil facilities, including the country’s largest oil field in the south. The blockade was likely aimed at defunding Dbeibah’s government and empowering his rival, Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by the eastern parliament in February.
The shutdown has exacerbated the country’s electricity shortage and sparked nationwide protests, including one that resulted in the Assault on the eastern-based parliamentary headquarters in Tobruk.
Libyan lawmakers insist that Dbeibah’s term expired last year after he failed to hold general elections in December as dictated by a UN-brokered roadmap.
In recent months, the The UN has sponsored several rounds of talks between the country’s two rival legislative bodies to agree on a constitutional mechanism for holding elections, to no avail.
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