5 March 2013

Libya: Insecurity Deals Economic Blow

Photo: Africa Undisguised
An offshore oil rig.

Tripoli — Libya's persistent unrest is now jeopardising the country's economic recovery, with natural gas exports now on hold.

The Libyan army on Monday (March 4th) took over security at the Mellitah oil and gas complex, Libya Herald reported. The complex stopped operations and workers were evacuated Saturday following deadly clashes between the Zintan and Zwara militias.

The plant, located 60km west of Tripoli, is jointly operated by the National Oil Corporation and Italy's Eni.

"The site has been secured by the army last night. But the gas supply has not yet resumed," Abdelfattah Sharkan, the president of the board of directors at the Mellitah Oil & Gas Company, said Monday. Sharkan said he hoped production would resume "in the next two days".

According to Zuwara Congressman Nouri Abu Sahmein, "These clashes broke out after three Zintan brigade members attacked a checkpoint in Sabratha. One of them was wounded and taken to Zuwara for treatment. After that, one of them assaulted the person who helped them in Zuwara."

He noted that locals in the area, both Arabs and Amazighs, tried to find a solution to the problem at the gas complex.

He also said that he contacted Prime Minister Ali Zidan, intelligence chief Salem al-Hasi, General National Congress (GNC) head Mohamed Magarief, as well as Undersecretary of the Interior Ministry for Security Affairs Omar al-Khadhraoui to contain the situation.

Mellitah Oil & Gas Company evacuated a number of foreign workers for fear of renewed clashes. Meanwhile, others staged a sit-in demanding security in society.

"The strange thing is that these armed groups have problems with the complex management although they receive large amounts of money for guarding it," Ezem, a resident of Zuwara, said.

Meanwhile, he expressed his surprise over the failure of state to control rogue militias made up of former revolutionaries.

"It was the Libyans who liberated their country, and the credit in that doesn't go for a certain region over another or a certain tribe over another," he said. "This reminds me of Sirte and Kadhadfa tribe at the time of Kadhafi."

Maha al-Sabry, a public sector employee, said "the state must seize control of government and oil facilities and projects".

"We've had enough chaos from these security and military brigades," al-Sabry added. "We want to build a strong army and an effective police force."

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