Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Libya updates November 27 , 2013 - Security related concerns in Benghazi lead News of the Day ....... Economic News will be led by Oil - security issues throughout the country impact oil production as militias assert control over oil from the toothless Central Government and feeble Army

Financial Crisis .....

TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said on Wednesday his government will be unable to pay public salaries and may have to seek loans if armed militias blockading oilfields and ports continue to choke off crude shipments.
Zeidan's warning and renewed armed clashes, including an attack on a centuries-old shrine near Tripoli, have added to a growing sense of chaos in the OPEC producer two years after the NATO-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.
Western powers worry the North African state may slide into anarchy as Zeidan's government struggles to rein in militias who helped topple Gaddafi but have kept their weapons and still control parts of the vast country.
Militias, tribesman and ethnic minorities have seized oilfields and ports to make demands, drying up the main cashflow for the budget, much of which is spent on state subsidies to stave off popular discontent or to buy the loyalty of the militias.
"We are facing a financial crisis," Zeidan told reporters, adding that the government might be forced to borrow. "Oil revenues are down to 20 percent."
He did not give further details. Libya had been exporting more than 1 million barrels of oil a day until summer, when the protests and strikes escalated, and output is now down to a fraction of that.
A government deadline to end the oil strikes expired last week but Zeidan only repeated that the authorities would take unspecified "measures". He declined to elaborate.
Libya might also start facing power cuts as the oil strikes hamper gas production at several fields, Electricity Minister Ali Muhairig said.
Hours before Zeidan spoke, new clashes broke out between army special forces and Islamists in Benghazi, the largest city in the oil-rich east.
Fighting on Monday between the army and members of militant group Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi left at least nine dead before the Islamists retreated from their main base.
Gun battles erupted in parts of the port city in the early hours of Wednesday when members of Ansar al-Sharia threw a grenade at a patrol of special forces, a security official said. He later said it was not clear who was behind the attack.
Three soldiers were also killed in Benghazi in what city officials described as assassinations. The security situation in Libya's second-biggest city has sharply deteriorated in the past few months. Islamists run their own checkpoints, and assassinations and bombings occur daily.
In Tajoura outside the capital Tripoli, unknown attackers blew up part of a 16th century shrine, the mausoleum of an Ottoman ruler, witnesses said.
Western powers have promised more aid to the army and police to militants who control much of the vast desert country.
But popular anger is also growing against the militiamen and former fighters, and Zeidan's fragile government hopes to use that discontent to wrest back control from armed groups.
Hoping to co-opt former fighters, the government has hired militia groups to provide security. But they remain loyal to their commanders or tribes and often clash in disputes over territory or personal feuds.


Oil strikes have caused “financial crisis”: Zeidan

By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 27 November 2013:
Months of strikes at the country’s oil fields and export terminals have seen production plummet, plunging Libya into a financial crisis, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said today.
He said the situation had become so critical that the government was now facing the prospect of borrowing money.
Zeidan added that the state budget, which relied heavily on oil revenues, was critically overstretched and warned that the government may soon not be able to afford to pay salaries.
Speaking at today’s press conference, he said the government had run out of patience with “the criminals” who were still blockading the oil fields. Production has now plummeted to just 20 percent of the country’s capacity.
“I do not accept violence easily, but the government will respond with necessary actions to protect the resources of the state,” he said. The blockades were “a crime and betrayal of the state,” Zeidan said, since those responsible were the very guards who had been tasked with protecting Libya’s oil.
The country’s hydrocarbon resources were for all Libyans, Zeidan said.


More than 40 killed in depot blast in Libya, more clashes in east

TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:16pm EST
(Reuters) - More than 40 people were killed on Thursday in an explosion at an army depot in southern Libya after locals had tried to steal ammunition and four soldiers died in other violence in the restive east, officials said.
The incidents highlighted the turmoil in Libya where the government is trying to restore order in the oil producing country, which is awash with weapons after the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.
The blast in Brak al-Chati, near the main southern city of Sabha, happened after a group of 43 locals and Africans were entering the army depot to steal ammunition, a security official said.
The casualties could rise further as the depot was still on fire and people might be trapped inside, the official said.
Libya's nascent military is struggling to secure army bases and curb Islamist militants, militias and gangs who fought in the uprising against Gaddafi but refuse to disarm and control parts of the country.
The four soldiers were killed in Benghazi as clashes erupted between army special forces and militant Islamists of the Ansar al-Sharia group, officials said.
The trouble started when soldiers stopped a car loaded with weapons, explosives and large amount of money. "Three soldiers were killed in clashes with Ansar al-Sharia," Wanis Bukhmada, commander of the special forces in Benghazi, told a news conference.
He later told Reuters: "We will defend Benghazi."
Another soldier was assassinated by unknown gunmen in the morning in another part of the city, a security source said.
Fighting had initially started on Monday between army special forces and members of the Ansar Sharia in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city. At least nine people were killed before the Islamists retreated from their main base. Three more soldiers were killed on Wednesday.
Army officials went on nationwide television on Thursday to appeal to the Islamists and other militias to lay down their weapons in Benghazi and start a dialogue.
"Brothers of the Ansar al-Sharia. You are Muslims and we are Muslims. We don't differ on religion ... but don't impose something which is not part of the religion," Salah Obeidi, army commander of the eastern region, told reporters.
The security situation has sharply deteriorated in the past few months in Benghazi, where car bombings and assassinations are part of daily life.
Most countries have closed their consulates in the city of one million inhabitants, home to several oil companies. Some foreign airlines also have stopped flying there.
Ansar al-Sharia was blamed for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September last year when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
The chaos in Libya is worrying its neighbors and the Western powers that backed the uprising which led to the fall of Gaddafi in one of the Arab Spring revolts.
Hoping to co-opt former fighters, the government hired militia groups to provide security. But they remain loyal to their commanders or tribes and often clash in disputes over territory or personal feuds.
Libya's oil exports are down to a fraction of capacity due to seizures of oilfields and ports by militias, tribesmen and civil servants demanding more political rights or higher pay.

Electricity output at “lowest level” warns Muhairiq

By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 27 November 2013:
Libyan electricity generation is now “at its lowest level” since the revolution because of politically-driven fuel blockades by Amazigh and Tebus, the Minister of Electricity, Ali Muhairiq, has said.
Responding to fresh electricity cuts in the capital, the minister told reporters that the Amazigh had closed the gas pipeline running from the Al-Wafa field in southwest Libya to the Ruwais Power station that serves much of Tripoli, while Tebus have been blockading the Sarir field in eastern Libya.  He said that output was now at 4,600 megawatts.
In the Summer, it was at around 6,000 megawatts when there were extensive power cuts in the capital. The only reason why there were more outages then was because of the massive use of air conditioning.
Muhairiq added that GECOL (General Company for Electricity) had told him it would close Sarir power station within the next 24 hours if the blockade persisted.
He emphasised that the exploitation of the oil fields as “a way of pressurising” the government to address political demands was unacceptable and was counter to the country’s interests.
Pointing out that winter was approaching and that and people needed electricity for heating, he called the Amazigh and Tebu to pursue their demands for political rights “in a civilised manner”, and not by closing oil fields.
The Amazigh are demanding more seats on the 60-member Constitutional Committee while the Tebus want an independent Tebu local council in Kufra as well as improved infrastructure there and in Reybana.

Cable theft cuts off communication in Ghariyan district

By Houda Mzioudet. 
Tripoli 27 November 2013:
Telephone communication around Khemir, some 25 kilometres south south of Ghariyan, have been cut as a result of yet another copper cable theft, Ahmed Masood, a telecommunications engineer in the Libya Post Telecommunications & Information Technology Company (LPTIC) in Mizdah told the Libya Herald.
He said that thieves stole electric cables from LPTIC’s rural telephone communication tower. It provides internet communications to the area as well as parts of Mizdah.
Communication in the area have been cut since last Sunday. The theft has also affected telephone communications in the town of Ghriyaat, 300 kilometres south of Ghariyan, according to Masood.
“Vandals stole the copper cables to sell them afterwards,” he explained.
Rural telephone communications provide rural areas in Ghariyan and Mizdah with internet that still do not have WiFi internet.
“We wrote to GECOL about the cables to get telephone communications back in the area but we’re still waiting for them to send a maintenance team to repair it,” explained Ezzedine El Arbi, Telecom Libya’s head of administrative and financial affairs at its Jebel Nafusa branch.
Similar thefts of cable have occurred regularly across the country.

Congressional meeting with Benghazi security chiefs stormed by protestors. Three members manhandled

By Noora Ibrahim and Ahmed Elumami.
Protesters inside the Benghazi meeting (Photo: Fadelullah Bujwary)
Protesters inside the Benghazi meeting (Photo: Fadelullah Bujwary)
Benghazi and Tripoli, 26 November 2013:
Three Benghazi congressmen were manhandled by protestors who had stormed a meeting in the city between  security and military leaders and a large congressional delegation.
Members of Benghazi civil society organisations forced their way into the room in the headquarters of the oil company Agoco, where the meeting was being held. They demanded that three of the city’s congressmen, Mohammed Busidra, Sulaiman Zubi and Saleh Joudah be ejected.
The trio had been among a delegation of 65 members of congress, led by Deputy President Ezzidine  Al-Awami, that had flown from Tripoli . Among those they met were Chief of Staff Abdulsalam Jadallah Al-Obaidi,  Saiqa commander Wanis Bukhamada and deputy acting interior minister Bahloul Al-Said.
It is understood that the three congressmen left the meeting and have returned to Tripoli.
Congressman Congressman Omar Hemidan, who is also the GNC spokesman said that the delegation had come to discuss yesterday’s clashes between the Saiqa special forces and “other groups”. He said that the lawmakers were anxious to find a way to calm the situation.
Bukhamada said that the enforcement of Laws 27 and 53 on the removal of illegal formations would continue. After 31 December, any militias which had not disbanded would be “illegitimate”.  He added that his special forces would use force against any group that used attacked the police or army.
After the meeting, Benghazi congressman Ahmad Langhi told the Libya Herald: “ We listened to Benghazi’s security and military leaders’ demands and requirements for new equipment. We asked them to write out those demands so we can discuss them with the government later”.   Langhi added that the commanders had emphasised to their congressional visitors that they regarded any attack the security forces “as a red line”.

Breaking news: further clashes in Benghazi

By Libya Herald staff.
An image circulating on social media websites purporting to show
An image circulating on social media websites purporting to show fighting near the Al-Jalaa Hospital
Benghazi and Tripoli, 26 November 2013:
Reports from Benghazi indicate that Ansar Al-Sharia have regrouped and, late this evening, have attacked a number of army positions.
Three checkpoints have been attacked, one at the Army headquarters, another at Benghazi’s western entrance and a third in the Keesh district of the city, according to local sources.
Explosions and heavy firefights have also been reported near the Al-Jalaa Hospital, where 23 members of the Benghazi Special Forces have been treated for injuries sustained in yesterday’s clashes with members of Ansar Al-Sharia.
Reports on social media say that three Libyan Army soldiers have been injured in tonight’s fighting near the hospital.
A local resident told the Libya Herald that explosions in the neighbourhood were heard at around 12.30 am. These, he said, were followed by heavy and light calibre gunfire.

Disappointment at Zeidan meeting in Benghazi

By Ahmed Elumami.

Tripoli, 26 November 2013:
No decisions were made about security in Benghazi at last night’s meeting there between the Prime Minister and top military officials. Ali Zeidan had flown to Benghazi following yesterday’s clashes between the army’s Special Forces Saiqa Brigade and Ansar Al-Sharia.
“Zeidan simply supported the army with words, saying that an attack on the army was a dangerous matter,” spokesman of Benghazi Joint Security Room (BJSR) Ibrahim Shara told the Libya Herald.
The Prime Minister did not make any proposals or offer practical or financial help, Shara said, stressing that nothing new had been discussed.
The meeting was attended by government officials as well as the Chief of Staff, Major-General Jaddalah Obaidi, Benghazi security leaders including Saiqa commander Wanis Bukhamada and Commander of the Air Defence helicopter squadron Abdel Nasser Bousnina, and elders.
It took place at the same Benina airbase where a fortnight earlier the Prime Minister had briefly flown in to meet Bukhamada and Bousnina and discuss the security crisis in the city. Those talks had also failed to come up with concrete proposals.
Despite the lack of government help, the BJSR was working with “all its available potential” to provide security and safety to the city’s residents, declared Shara.
Meanwhile it emerged today that Monday’s clashes resulted in more deaths and injuries than has so far been announced. This newspaper has been informed that at least 14 people were killed and over 52 injured.
A source at Al-Jalaa hospital said it had treated more than 23 wounded members of the Special Forces and that a further seven were dead on arrival.
At Benghazi Medical Centre, which treated civilians fighting alongside Saiqa, another seven were pronounced dead on arrival while 25 were treated. Of these, four had been operated on yesterday and three today.
Four less seriously wounded men were being treated at the Hawary hospital.

Tebus deny handing over airbase; accuse government of ignoring them

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 26 November 2013:
Media reports that a Tebu militia is the latest to hand over its base by vacating the massive Wegh airbase in southwest Libya are untrue, a senior Tebu military figure has told the Libya Herald.
“We would be willing to hand over the massive, strategic airbase to the army but only if the government is willing to pay genuine attention to our terms and conditions,” said Barka Wardoku, the head of the Murzuk Military Council and a member of the Committee Monitoring the Southern Frontier.
“We seriously want to integrate into the army but the government had not yet offered up a realistic plan,” he said, adding: “We’ve already pulled back from Murzuk towards the frontiers – to Wegh, Wawannus and Al-Tum.”
Wardoku also claimed that none of his forces had ever been paid or given clear-cut instructions for them to give up their role and their weapons.
He accused the government of ignoring Tebus who had played a major part in the revolution.
“We’ve been excluded from rebuilding the country,” he said. “Worst of all, we’ve been portrayed as wild, unwanted, vicious and ungrateful militiamen. But it is the government that is reluctant to integrate us. Instead, it is strengthening regionally and ideologically based militias.”
Wardoku insisted that there were only two brigades in the region that could be considered legitimate revolutionaries: the Desert Shield, which he founded, and the Oum Al-Aranib, founded by Sharfadeen Barka. The latter was the first revolutionary brigade in the whole south, founded in August 2011, he said.
True revolutionaries all over the country were being largely forgotten by the authorities, he complained.  Instead, new militias, “with a variety of unpatriotic agendas” were taking over the political scene in Libya.
He said that he and Barka had sent “a thousand letters, if not more” to the previous and the present governments detailing the difficulties they had to face – illegal immigration and drugs mafias who were now widely active on the Libyan-Algerian and Libyan-Nigerean borders.
For his part, Sharfadeen Barka said that he would not be giving up the Al-Tum military compound close to the Nigerean border because the country was in a state of absolute chaos.
“We, as true revolutionaries, want to preserve the whole frontier intact and confront any outside threat,” he said. “Besides, we haven’t seen any genuine intention on the part of the government to integrate us into the national army.”
Members of the army who were in the base, he added, were also fed up with the government’s neglect of the region which, he claimed, was deliberate.
He too spoke of being left to deal with the problems of illegal immigration.  “We’ve caught more that 23,000 people from all over Africa,” he recounted.  Keeping them alive, housed and fed was a massive challenge.
He added that his forces had captured large quantities of smuggled alcohol and drugs.  He said he wanted the Libyan and international press to come and see it being destroyed.


Wintershall cuts back Libyan operations

By Callum Paton.
A Wintershall seismic team in Libya early this year
A Wintershall seismic team in Libya early this year
 Tripoli, 27 November 2013:
Widespread blockades of oil and gas production facilities, that have stopped all onshore, production have forced Wintershall, Libya’s second largest foreign oil company, to reduce its in-country staff to a “core management team”.
Yesterday Eni, the largest the largest foreign player, saw its international credit rating reduced by Fitch in part because of the loss of most of its Libyan production.
A Wintershall spokesman told the Libya Herald today: “Due to the protracted blockade of the export terminals at the coast, Wintershall has had to suspend its onshore production.
“The extent of our operational activity has changed, even been reduced because of that. In close co-operation with the Libyan NOC [National Oil Company], we are temporarily relocating a number of functions and will rely more on decentralised teams that can collaborate flexibly across multiple locations.”
Wintershall declined to comment on the size of its remaining staff in Libya but explained that “core teams have remained on site – with all functional positions. In that way, we stay ready to return to normal operation quickly when the situation improves.”
Libya accounts for three quarters of  the firm’s oil liftings. A subsidiary of the German conglomerate BASF, Wintershall  has confirmed that production at the offshore Al-Jurf field, in which it holds a 6.7% stake, has not been been affected. However, output at its largest Libyan properties, in blocks C96 and C97 has been suspended. Wintershall commented: “It is currently unclear when the blockade of the export terminals will be lifted and how quickly production in the Libyan Desert can be resumed.”
Before the revolution the company had been producing 100,000 b/d from Libya.  By March this year output was averaging 83,000 b/d.

Libyan oil stoppages hit Eni’s rating

By Callum Paton.
Tripoli, 26 November 2013:
Italian energy giant Eni had its outlook downgraded from stable to negative by the American credit rating agency Fitch yesterday as a result of the situation in Libya.
Citing a loss in production for Eni in Libya, Fisk said it predicted a slump in the company’s performance in 2014.
At the end of October, the Italian energy conglomerate saw its oil and gas production fall 3.8 percent in the third quarter to 1.653 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
Libya’s oil exports dropped to less than 10 percent of capacity earlier this month as protests yet again halted production in the country. Federalists in the east and south of the country as well as Amazigh activists in the Jebel Nafusa are now routinely blockading production facilities to back up constitutional demands.
Amazigh protesters recently ended their blockade on Eni’s Mellitah complex, 100 kilometres west of Tripoli, which processes gas to the Greenstream pipeline for export to Italy but there were no gas exports via the pipeline between 12 and19 November. They have slowly increased since then up to about half the pipeline’s 22-million cubic-metres-a-day capacity but there have been indications Amazigh blockades might resume.
Following the failure of the vote in Congress on Sunday to make the Amazigh language, Tamzight, an official state language, it is reported that the Amazigh Supreme Council is again considering a fresh blockade at the Mellitah complex.
While Eni’s outlook has been downgraded it has retained its A+ credit rating. This may be in jeopardy but the energy company stated its commitment to Libya last year when on a visit to Tripoli the company’s in Chief Executive Paolo Scaroni pledged $8 billion of new investments over the coming decade.

New €15 million support package from EU

By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 26 November 2013:
The EU is looking to resume talks with Libya, suspended since the revolution, on the a trade and cooperation agreement, modelled on the deals it has with other states close to its borders.
Meanwhile it has just produced two financial packages, worth a total of €15 million, the first aiming to help businesses get off the ground and the second to promote the protection of the vulnerable.
The €10 million commercial funding is in part targeting micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSME). The EU says that it will be setting up “widely accessible and relevant” support services, for firms that are seeking to expand. A focus on job-creation, particularly for women and young people will, it says, promote a dynamic and diversified private sector.
However part of this money will pay for the technical expertise to help the Libyan government work on the EU Framework Agreement, which will cover all Libyan-EU relations, including trade and economic cooperation.
The smaller €5 million tranche for the Protection of vulnerable people in Libya looks to ensure that detainees are housed and treated in line with international standards. There is also funding earmarked for psychosocial rehabilitation and mental health services. The ambition is to help Libya reach out to at-risk groups, in particular the socially and economically disadvantaged, internally displaced people and minorities.
The EU cites its 2012 report which found the problems “dire” for minority groups such as the Tawergha, the Meshashia and the Tuareg.
It notes: “As of March 2013, the Libyan Relief Agency (LibAid), reported 74,802 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), most of whom of Tawarghan origin, living in urban settings and camp-like settings in and around Tripoli, the Nafusa Mountains and Benghazi, and in detention”.
The EU says that, excluding €80.5 million humanitarian assistance it provided in 2012, Brussels’ total programme in Libya now stands at €95 million.

'Major crude oil importers won’t deal with Libya’s militia'

Published time: November 27, 2013 11:28
AFP Photo / Mahmud Turkia
AFP Photo / Mahmud Turkia
Libyan militia won’t be able to successfully control the assets of the country’s oil production, Mamdouh Salameh, World Bank oil expert, told RT.
Moeen Raoof, Defence consultant, believes there is nothing Tripoly can do about separatists who declared an autonomy in the country's oil-rich eastern provinces. “The central government cannot rule beyond the hotel lobby, where the Prime Minister stays in,” Raoof told RT. There will be instability for the next 10-20 years unless they come up with solution, he said.
RT:  The country's oil output has plummeted to about 10% of its previous capacity - what are the immediate and long-term effects of this drop?
Mamdouh Salameh: Actually the price of oil has dropped by $2 to $3 only, but that is natural because oil is connected and receptive to political developments. However, the overall trend for the future of oil is upward. Its drop of $2 to $3 is nothing. The demand for oil is going up and that’s why I’m saying the trend is ascending. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the price of $120 to $130 by 2015. However, the loss of 2 or 3 dollars in the price of oil seems to be welcomed by the global economies, although it won’t have a very great impact as yet.
RT: In terms of what’s going on in Libya itself and in terms of who actually controls the oil, we do hear that breakaway militias have formed an autonomy in Libya's oil-rich east. They want to export the crude oil for themselves. Do you think they will be able to succeed?
MS: No, they will not. Libya is a different category from the other Arab Gulf producers. For instance, since last year when the troubles started in Libya, Libya virtually ceased to be an oil exporter. This year they are not even able to satisfy their domestic needs which amounts to around 400,000 barrels a day - they are producing 200,000, which is 50% of their needs. And they used to export 1.25 million barrels to Europe, they are not exporting anything.
The militia or the armed gangs want to control the assets of oil production so that they can finance their activities. They will not succeed and they will also have to repair the damage to the oil industry in Libya. Furthermore, the major importers like Italy, France and Germany will not deal with them; they would rather buy oil from somewhere else but not deal with the militia.
RT: Given the huge economic problems Libya is now facing, particularly with reference to oil and gas revenues, are there any economic alternatives for Tripoli?
MS: There is no alternative because the Libyan budget depends to the tune of 85 percent to 90 percent of revenue from oil and gas export. The Libyan economy as a whole is dependent to the tune of 90 percent to 95 percent on the revenue from oil and gas. Since there is no gas and oil revenue, no export, so there is no revenue at all. The Libyan government is in real mess because they cannot issue the budget without knowing how much oil they will be able to export and what revenue they will get.