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article imageOp-Ed: Tobruk Libyan government sets up its own oil company

By Ken Hanly     Apr 10, 2015 in World
Tripoli - The internationally recognized Libyan government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has once again tried to dismiss the Central Bank of Libya Governor Saddek Elkaber.
Ostensibly, the Board of Management of the Bank, located in Al-Beida in the east, part of the Tobruk-based government, dismissed Elkbaber. This is the board representing the House of Representatvies(HoR) in Tobruk. However, the historic headquarters of the Bank is in Tripoli and Elkaber has continued to operate from there. The Bank has tried to remain neutral in the dispute about the legitimacy of the two rival governments. The rival National Salvation Government is based in Tripoli and was created by the General National Congress. Back in November 2014, the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the June elections last year were unconstitutional and the HoR should be dissolved. The international community has mostly ignored the ruling. The UN said that it was studying the ruling last November. It has not said a word about it since. However, it has adopted language at times that suggests it is neutral with respect to the legitimacy of the rival governments. The UN has been attempting to negotiate the formation of a unity government and a ceasefire between rival military groups.This move by the Al-Thinni government will make the situation in Libya much more complicated and increase the conflict. The Bank has been paying government salaries of both parties and retained a financial unity within the country in spite of the conflict and two governments competing for legitimacy.
The other main institution that has kept some semblance of unity within Libya is the National Oil Corporation(NOC) that markets LIbyan oil. It has deposited funds from the sale of oil into the Central Bank. The NOC has remained neutral in the dispute as well, depositing money both of sales from Tripoli-controlled ports along with those from the Tobruk-government-controlled ports into the Central Bank. The Tobruk government has now announced that it has created its own National Oil Company based in Benghazi. Just recently it ordered the new company to begin exporting crude, and to open a bank account in the UAE and set up offices in the UK, Germany, and the US. The chair of the new firm, Mabrouk Seif, claims that it had already begun negotiating with firms that have contracts with the rival. However, many experts have their doubts about the new move. Even an economics professor in Benghazi, Ibrahim Suleiman, said: "Foreign oil companies have dealt with NOC in Tripoli for decades. They won't switch their business now. The government has no other choice but to accept the status quo."
Forces loyal to the Tobruk government control the two main oil ports in the east of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf. Just recently, forces of the rival Tripoli government agreed to withdraw from the area, a move praised by the United Nations. Ironically, about a year ago while a GNC transitional government was in power, the same forces tried to ship crude independently of the NOC. A tanker, the Morning Glory escaped Libyan naval units but was ultimately boarded by US special forces and returned to the central government. Now of course these forces who held up production for almost a year, are the good guys allied to the internationally recognized Libyan government. Al Thinni the Tobruk HoR prime minister also made former failed coup leader CIA-linked "renegade" general Khalifa Haftar commander of his armed forces. At the time of Haftar's failed coup Al-Thinni was prime minister of the interim GNC government. The rival forces may decide to renew their attempts to take Ras Lanuf and Es Sider given these new moves by the Al-Thinni government. The moves will no doubt doom any chance for success of the UN-brokered attempts to form a unity government.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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