Libya PM orders army to end oil port blockade
Monday, 3 February 2014
Monday, 3 February 2014
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said Monday he had ordered the army to lift the blockade imposed by protesters on the main oil terminals in the east of the country.
Since last July, security guards at key oil terminals in eastern Libya -- many of them former rebels who helped overthrow dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 -- have blockaded exports, hitting government revenues.
“I asked the defense minister to give the order to the army chief of staff to head for the oil ports,” Zeidan said at a press conference in Tripoli.
He said he had given the order two weeks ago, without giving further details about the nature or date of any military operation.
Protesters at the eastern oil ports are demanding a restoration of the autonomy the eastern region of Cyrenaica was granted in the first decade after Libya’s independence in 1951.
They have also accused the authorities of corruption and are demanding a more equitable distribution of oil revenues.
Zeidan has threatened to break their blockade with force in the past, but has refrained from taking action, and has repeatedly said he will not negotiate with protesters.
Libya’s vital oil revenues fell far short of expectations in 2013, reaching just $40 billion after protesters shut down production at key sites in the east of the country.
The crisis saw production plunge to about 250,000 barrels per day from nearly 1.5 million bpd before the crisis. After the blockade of an oilfield in the south was lifted, output rose again to 600,000 bpd.
He also said at the press conference he had presented the country’s highest political authority, the General National Congress, with a list of ministers as part of a cabinet reshuffle.
The Islamist Justice and Construction Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, withdrew its five ministers from the government last month, demanding Zeidan’s resignation.
Their resignations came after an attempt to pass a censure motion against Zeidan, proposed by 99 lawmakers, most of whom were Islamists.
But they failed to clinch the required 120 votes in the 194-member GNC.
Two more Congress members resign
By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 3 February 2014:
Two General National Congress (GNC) members resigned during today’s session, reportedly in protest at the move to extend Congress’ life to the end of the year.
According to GNC spokesperson Omar Hemidan, National Forces Alliance (NFA) members Ibrahim Al-Gharyani (Benghazi) and Fariha Al-Barkawi (Derna) resigned for their own reasons. However, independent Zawiya Congressman Ahmed Tawfiq Yaqoub told the Libya Herald that they had resigned because they were opposed to extending Congress’ mandate.
Neither Gharyani nor Barkawi were available for comment.
According to Hemidan, the resignations were automatically accepted because they had been announced in person to the presidency and members of Congress.
He added that four other Congress members had also planned to resign today but had been dissuaded from doing so by other members on the grounds that the country was in enough of a crisis at present. He refused to name the four.
A pleased Yaqoub, who has had run-ins with Gharyani, called the latter’s resignation “the biggest gift to the Libyan people”. He confirmed that while Gharyani was announcing his resignation he had got down his knees in the Congress hall and thanked God.
“The main reason behind my action is because Gharyani was the biggest obstacle in Congress to any decision to move forward”, Yaqoub said.
The feelings were different about Congresswoman Barkawi, however.
“The Congress felt sorry because of the resignation of Derna Congresswoman Barkawi,” Yaqoub stated, noting that she was “a wonderful person and has been an active Congress member”.
Last month, independent Misrata Congressman Salahiddeen Omar Beshr Badi also submitted his resignation over the decision to extend the life of the GNC beyond this month.
Sharara oilfield production cut by Jebel Nafusa pipeline blockade
By Jamel Adel and Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 3 February 2014:
Production at the Sharara oilfield has been reduced by 40 percent as a result of a partial blockade of the oil pipeline from the field to the Zawia oil refinery and terminal.
The manager at the oilfield, Hassan Al-Sideek, told the Libya Herald that an unknown group had partially closed a valve on the pipeline near Reyayna in the Jebel Nafusa, forcing the cut in production.
Oil industry sources confirmed the report. One source, who put the cut at 40 percent, told this newspaper that when a maintenance crew went to check the valve on Wednesday, they were met by a small armed group which refused to engage with them or state what their demands were. “They said they would speak only to government representatives,” the source reported.
“We don’t know what they want”, he said, but adding that there was a feeling that that the group were looking for money.
Another source close to Akakus Oil which operates the field 60 kilometres west of Obari, said that those involved were thought to be from Zintan but acting on their own behalf.
Zintan officials have denied any knowledge of the blockade. There have been a number of issues at Rayayna. Last week, about the same time the valve was turned down, its council leader was murdered. Three months ago, the population of west Reyayna were allowed back home having been driven out for their support for Qaddafi in attacks on Zintan during the revolution.
Production at the Sharara oilfield restarted early last month after a two-month blockade by protestors was lifted. The protestors, many of them Tuaregs, were demanding National ID numbers although, officially, they said that their chief demand was the removal of the old, unelected local council in Obari.
When the protestors lifted the siege at the beginning of January, following negotiations with the Defence Minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni, they said that they were giving the authorities two weeks to meet their demands. If nothing happened, the blockade would resume. In the event, nothing has happened so far. The protestors have remained in the area but have not started their action.
A member of the demonstration committee, Mahmoud Alansari, told this paper yesterday that although there had been no response so far to the demands, the protestors understood that obtaining a quick response from the authorities at present was unrealistic and that they would therefore bide their time.
Breakfast breakout from Swani Road jail
By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 2 February 2014:
Fifty-five prisoners escaped yesterday from the Bawabat Al-Jibs prison on Tripoli’s Swani Road when they managed to overpower prison guards. It is the latest in a growing list of jailbreaks that has now seen more than 1,600 inmates escape over the past year.
According to a spokesman for the Judicial Police, which is responsible for security at the prison, the breakout happened during breakfast. He said there were just five guards on duty at the time for 200 inmates. The prisoners who were standing in line to receive their food, turned on the guards and disarmed them.
The Judicial Police Authority says everything is being done to recapture the escapees, with names and photos being circulated to checkpoints, ports, airports and border crossings.
Last August, a number of prisoners who were being transferred from the nearby prosecution office in Swani back to the prison managed to escape when the Judicial Police vehicle they were being transported in was ambushed by masked gunmen.
Water running out in Sirte and Ajdabiya
By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 1 February 2014:
The supply of water to Sirte and Ajdabiya and towns and villages all the way to Benghazi has stopped because of the clashes in and around Sarir, according to the head of Water and Sanitation Company’s Central Region.
Calling on people in Sirte today to using water sparingly, Hamad Faraj said that the existing supply in storage tanks was not going to meet its needs.
Separately, the director of technical affairs at the Man-Made River Company, Abdussalam Belasher confirmed to the Libya Herald that there was almost no more water in Ajdabiya’s main reservoir.
Faraj said that reserve tanks in Ajdabiya and Sirte would now have to be used. He added that the company would also have to use well water. It is thought doubtful, however, whether there will be enough, even for the short-term. The water table has dropped across much of the areas, resulting in increased salinity in wells.
Parts of Benghazi too have been suffering from water shortages as a result of the electricity supply being cut to the Man-Made River company. As a result it has not been able to pump water into the reservoirs.
Sarir Power station in missile attack
By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 1 February 2014:
Sarir power station came under missile attack, allegedly from an army unit today in which two turbines were reported damaged, although this is not confirmed. Workers’ residential units at the power complex are said to have been set on fire and two people injured. The nearby Al-Shola oil compound was also reported to have been hit.
According to the Tripoli-based spokesman for the Petroleum Facilities Guards, Walid Hassan Al-Tarhouni, the attack started at around 10am. “A group from 427 Brigade carried out an attack on the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) at the Al-Shola oil compound and the Sarir power station. They stopped some 15 kilometres from the oil compound and started shelling it and the power station with Grad missiles.”
This was confirmed by Salah Mohamed, commanding officer of the army’s 25th Brigade, one branch of which comprises the unit of the PFG responsible for guarding a number of facilities in the region, including the power station and the oil compound.
“This morning, around 32 armed vehicles from the Brigade 427 approached and started firing randomly at the facilities,” he told the Libya Herald. “The shelling started at 10 o’clock and lasted until 4pm. A good number of grads missiles fell into the Al-Shola oil compound, and some other missiles fell on to the Sarir power station and hit two electrical turbines. They also hit some workers accommodation units inside the power station complex. The units were set on fire.”
Station manager Hashem Al-Maliki, at present in Derna, told this newspaper that he had been informed that the turbines had not been hit, only the accommodation units.
They are believed to have been unoccupied at the time. A group of Koreans working at the power station were evacuated last month after gunmen attacked the nearby Al-Sarir farm project.
There has been a series of incidents in the area which are seen as linked to the bitter rivalry some 450 kilometres south in Kufra between the Zwai tribe and the Tebu people. The PFG in the Sarir area are largely Tebu while Brigade 427, which recently took up protection duties at the Man-Made River base some 40 kilometres to the north of the power station, is largely Zwai.
Clashes in the area a week ago saw an electricity pylon being destroyed and power lines cut, as a result of which the Man-Made River has been unable to pump water and there are now water shortages in parts of Benghazi and elsewhere. Production at the power station had stopped the previous week because of security concerns.
“We were surprised by this attack”, stated Tarhouni this evening. He said that it was thought that tensions in the area had been resolved during Thursday’s visit to the area by a delegation led by the Water Resources Minister, Al-Hadi Suleiman Hinshir. Accompanied by the deputy defence minister, a number of GNC members, the manager of Man-Made River company, members from Benghazi Shoura Council and the head of Benghazi Local Council, he had held discussions with the various parties to put an end once and for all to the clashes in the Sarir area and around the Man-Made River company.
“We’ve met with all those involved, although I can’t disclose the full details to the press until the problem is completely resolved”, Hinshir told this paper at the time. However, others claimed that good progress had been made at the talks.
With input from Ayman Amzein
Two victims of assassination attempts die in hospital
By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 1 February 2014:
Two men who were targeted in separate assassination attempts in Benghazi have died in hospital.
Retired police colonel Abdel Fatteh Barasi, who was shot in the head yesterday and rushed to hospital in a life-threatening condition, has died in Benghazi Medical Centre. He underwent emergency surgery but doctors were unable to save him.
Another man, Zachariah Al-Adressi, who sustained gunshot wounds on Thursday night has also died in hospital. Adressi was injured in a shooting incident on Benghazi’s Sharia Ashreen, which also killed his friend, Saleh Abdul Razag Spak, the son of a member of the Benghazi Special Forces.
Petrol shortage in Sebha
By Jamal Adel and Seraj Essul.
Tripoli, 1 February 2014:
Although the streets in Sebha are now calm after the recent fighting, they remain largely empty, this time because of a petrol shortage. Only one petrol station was open yesterday– until supplies ran out.
According to a Brega Oil Company official, there is plenty of petrol in the storage tanks but with the electricity lines damaged during the clashes, there is no power and the pumps are not working.
“They’re fixing it. As soon as the electricity is back, they’ll start distributing petrol to the stations,” he said.
Head of Sebha Local Council, Ayoub Alzaroug, blamed the electricity cuts on high winds rather than military action for bringing down lines.
Shops were opening as and when security permitted but banks, schools and businesses were expected to remain shut tomorrow, a local resident said. Although the army had secured the airport, there were no police or armed forces on the streets or manning checkpoints, he said.
Alzaroug confirmed the absence of troops and police but said they would be deployed shortly. He added that after over three weeks of clashes in which at least 148 died and over 320 were wounded, first between the Awlad Sulaiman and the Tebu, then between Qaddafi supporters and the security forces, “people feel they can resume their normal lives”.
Of the dead and wounded, Sebha Central Hospital’s Abdullah Haider told the Libya Herald that it had dealt with 108 killed, 15 of them unknown, and over 200 injured, while Mohamed Ali Whamer at Murzuk, Hospital said it had registered 38 dead and 117 wounded.
Maltese ferry company claims €800,000 over 2011 evacuation of US personnel from Libya
By Matthew Xuereb, The Times of Malta.
Malta, 2 February 2014:
Virtu Ferries Ltd of Ta’ Xbiex, Malta, is claiming almost €800,000 from the US government and its embassy in Malta over the evacuation of personnel at the height of the Libyan crisis in 2011.
The claim is not for the actual trip, which has already been paid for, but for the time spent waiting in Tripoli to load the passengers.
In a suit filed in the First Hall of Malta’s Civil Court, the company claimed that the catamaran chartered by the US Embassy to operate the trip – the MV Maria Dolores – exceeded the time agreed in advance for the dis/embarkation of passengers by 46 hours.
The company said that it was contacted by the former US Ambassador, Douglas Kmiec, to charter a vessel to evacuate 500 to 550 people from Libya.
The matter was urgent as the situation in the country was worsening by the minute.
The agreement struck on 21 February laid down that the Maria Dolores should leave Malta the following day to arrive in Libya on 23 February.
It was delayed on orders by the US State Department to enable US representatives to go to Libya on the outbound voyage.
It had been agreed that passengers would board at 10am on 23 February but as the vessel began making its way into the Tripoli port, the Libyan authorities ordered it to leave and only allowed it into Libyan territorial waters at 12.20pm.
The vessel berthed at 1pm but the charterers only gave the green light for passengers to start embarking at 3.30pm.
The process was slow and, by 7pm, only 150 of the 500-550 passengers had boarded.
Embarkation continued at an extremely slow pace throughout 24 February and the morning of 25 February, when the catamaran left at 1.37pm, arriving in Malta just before 9pm.
As a result, the charterer exceeded the agreed six-hour period to load and unload passengers, known as laytime, by 46 hours.
In the maritime industry, once this laytime elapses, the charterer would incur charges, technically known as demurrage, which is the period when the charterer remains in possession of the vessel in question after the period agreed upon. It is a form of liquidated damages for breaching the contracted laytime.
Virtu Ferries said that since the charterers had exceeded the laytime by 46 hours, the demurrage due amounted to €782,000.
LIA sues Goldman Sachs over $1.2 billion losses
By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 31 January 2014:
Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) is suing US investment bank Goldman Sachs over claims that the bank lost it over a billion dollars.
The lawsuit was submitted to the High Court in London last week but the LIA provided details only yesterday.
In a press release, it alleges that US investment bank used the “unusually close” relationship it had developed with the institution and that as a result the LIA spent over $1 billion in equity derivatives trades which turned out to be worthless while Goldman Sachs netted $350 million in deals on LIA’s behalf.
“The central charge” the press release said, “is that Goldman Sachs deliberately exploited the relationship of trust and confidence it had established with the LIA to cause the LIA to enter into each of the disputed [equity derivatives] trades.”
The LIA claims that its own lack of financial skills compared to those of Goldman Sachs, enabled the latter to make huge profits at LIA’s expense while losing LIA a fortune.
“The unique circumstances allowed Goldman Sachs to take advantage of the LIA’s extremely limited financial and legal experience to deliberately exploit its position of influence, and to take advantage in a way that generated colossal losses for the LIA but substantial profits for Goldman Sachs,” said Abdul Magid A. Breish, LIA’s chairman since June last year.
From late 2007 onwards, the press release says, until after the disputed trades took place, “Goldman Sachs employees were extensively involved in self-described training and development of the team at the LIA, had unfettered access to its offices, systems and information, and provided extensive corporate hospitality for LIA employees.”
It claims, too, that the deals “were inadequately documented by Goldman Sachs, with the details of the actual trades undertaken being provided to the LIA weeks (and in some cases months) after the trades were executed. When the LIA received these and began to understand the true nature of the disputed trades it became clear that the trust and confidence placed in Goldman Sachs had been abused.”
While Goldman Sachs was “orchestrating these unjustly exploitative transactions, it repeatedly told the LIA that it sought a long-term relationship with the LIA as a strategic partner. This was untrue,” said Breish.
The suit centres around Goldman Sach’s investment in 2008 of $1.2 billion of LIA money into complex leveraged bets that the shares of six companies would increase during the following three years. The six companies were insurance giant Allianz,Banco Santander, Citigroup, Électricité de France, Itlian oil giant ENI and Italian bank UniCredit. This was just before before the financial crisis and in the ensuing debacle LIA’s investment was wiped out.
Other financial advisers are also said to have lost LIA money but it is, so far, the only one being sued.
Goldman Sachs has said that it will “vigourously” defend itself against the claims, which it described as being “without merit”.
It has two weeks to respond to the lawsuit.
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