LNA forces prepare move on Sharara as Sanalla says no reopening until “occupiers” leave – Al Marsad

Libya, 29 January 2019 – The President of the National Oil Corporation, Mustafa Sanalla, has again said that the Sharara oilfield in southwest Libya will not restart production until those he described as occupiers and criminals have left. The field, Libya’s biggest, has been under force majeure since it was shut down on December 8 by the largely Tuareg 30th Battalion, which constitutes the local Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG), along with supporters of the Fezzan Rage movement.

The takeover ended after PC head Faiez Sarraj visited the field on December 19 and agreed to the protestors’ demands. These included back salaries for members of the 30th Battalion unpaid for a number of years, the reopening of Sebha airport and other regional airports, the opening of the new power station at Obari, and fuel and cash deliveries to the south.

Sanalla, however, rejected the deal saying that Sarraj had caved into to ransom. He refused to reopen Sharara until a new force controlled by the NOC was allowed to take over security there.

Speaking to a conference in London today, Tuesday, he said that force majeure would not be lifted until the existing PFG leave.

“They are criminals, demanding ransom from the government, and there will be no compromise with people that kidnap our staff,” he said.

They had to leave the field before NOC would consider restarting production, he insisted.

In an interview with the UK newspaper The Guardian, he also said he wanted a new, national, non-tribal security force to take over protection of Libya’s oil installations. It would cost some $10m a year and should be under the direct control of the Presidency Council’s Government of National Accord. Sharara was the place to start the project, he suggested, but it had to exclude anyone involved in previous attacks on oil installations.

“It would rely on radars, cameras drones and fast satellite communications,” he added.

In his UK interview, Sanalla also suggested that the new national force could include members of the Libyan National Army (LNA).  However, he also made clear his opposition to the LNA itself taking over control of Sharara.

That, though, is what is being planned.

A fortnight ago, when LNA forces first moved into Sebha, LNA spokesman Brigadier Ahmed al-Mismari said that once the southern city was secured the next step would be to “to secure all of Libya’s oil regions”. This was seen as a meaning that the army would then move to Sharara.

LNA forces currently deployed in the Hamada al-Hamra region east of Ghadames are now reported to be poised to move south to take over the Sharara oilfield.  They are said to be awaiting confirmation of support from other units.

According to a source in contact with the unit currently controlling Sharara, is is prepared to hand it over to the LNA.

If the LNA were to take over Sharara, it would not be difficult to secure the nearby El-Fil field which is dependent on the electricity station at Sharara for its power supply. El-Fil is currently secured by Tebu forces, but the Tebu are now divided about opposing the LNA.

A Sharara and Fil takeover would see the LNA in control of well over 90 percent of Libya’s oil and gas fields.

Despite the fact that in September 2016, he welcomed the LNA’s takeover of the oil terminals of Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Zuweitina from Ibrahim Jadhran, Sanalla made it clear in his Guardian interview that he was opposed to an LNA takeover of Shahara and other southwestern fields.  What was happening, he said, was “the launch of an international counter-terrorism mission, which has expanded into an attempt to seize control of territory, including potentially, national oil infrastructure”.

A sequence of events had been set in motion “with unknowable consequences for Libya and the National Oil Corporation”, he stated.

The south, he said, “does not need a military solution to what is effectively a humanitarian problem”.

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